Sjoe but the toddler days can be tough! There are so many amazing and rewarding things about being a mom to toddlers, they are uber cute and say the most adorable things and do the most amazing things, but wow helping them figure out who they are and how to assert themselves is tough.
Yesterday was a tough day in our house. Both Sausage and Pudding have been teething their canines (I am too sleep deprived to remember if I have already told you this). Sausage has all four now and Pudding has three, and possibly cut the fourth one last night (at least I am hoping that is why no one in the house slept ALL night), but she won’t let me put a finger in her mouth to check. The canines have been the worst teeth so far, they have struggled and with the pain has come rattiness and with the pain has come disturbed sleep and with the lack of sleep has come rattiness and with the rattiness comes wilfulness and stubbornness and anger and fighting like I have never seen in my life.
I know all siblings fight, but this seems worse than anything I have ever read anywhere and worse than I have ever witnessed. And then I did some reading this morning and I realised why. They are both at the same stage of emotional intelligence (roughly), they both lack control still, they are both trying to assert themselves, they are both vying for attention. And without one who is a little ahead and can reason just a little more, it is hectic! Please other twin mom’s tell me this reasoning makes sense and it’s not that my kids grew horns.
The fighting started early, a little like the temper tantrums. At first it was mostly one twin starting the fighting and the other would just cry with a broken heart. But then the other twin started standing up for themselves, started fighting back and now it is totally even who starts the issues each time. Sometimes the issue is over sharing a toy (or other desired object), sometimes it is over sharing Mommy or Daddy, sometimes it just comes out of the blue and seems to have no root cause. And it is so hard to figure out how to manage this.
I have a funny relationship with the concept of smacking kids. In theory I have no problem with smacking when necessary, in theory I think it can be an appropriate form of discipline when things get totally out of hand. But my heart totally disagrees. I don’t see how violence can resolve issues, especially when the issue is trying to stop the violence. I don’t think that biting your child back teaches them to stop biting it just confuses them. I don’t see how smacking to stop them smacking teaches them not to hurt each other. I will admit we have smacked a nappy padded bum when they have done things which are dangerous and when distraction and a firm “no” and removal doesn’t stop them. But we have only used this when what they are doing is dangerous and it is not hard, but still I don’t feel comfortable with it. And so I seem to spend so much time trying to figure out how to discipline in a loving yet firm way that helps them learn the boundaries and feel safe and confident that they are loved.
So many of the ‘usual’ suggestions are very hard to enforce with twins. The concept of putting them in time out sounds great. We started with this, the one who starts the fighting or injures the other one gets put in the corner. We started with ignoring them in the corner (bear in mind they were only around 14 months when we started this so to actually keep them in the corner we had to be there too), but inevitably the injured party would come and kiss the one in the corner sorry, or sit with the one in the corner. Not really a solution. I’ve read a few articles about how time alone in the ‘naughty corner’ or time out is very isolating and that it doesn’t help them understand what they did wrong or how to behave better next time. These articles suggest going into time out with your child so that they know you are there for them, no matter what they have done, and once they are calm you can calm them down. This sounds good to me, except that when I do this it means that the twin who injured the other is the one that ends up getting one on one time with mommy. Suddenly this idea which sounds great means the twin who has misbehaved is the one being rewarded while the injured party gets ‘ignored’. I have tried simply saying a firm ‘No’ to the one that causes the injury and giving lots of attention to the injured party (you know the reward the offended one and ignore the problem maker approach), but it makes no difference. Sometimes while I am comforting the injured party the other one will come and try hurt the injured party again, while I am right there. There is a real stubbornness to this behaviour. After time out we encourage them to kiss and make up. We use the approach of not referring to the behaviour we don’t want them to do, but focus on what we do want, so for example I try not to say “Don’t hit”, but rather say, “we must be gentle with each other, let’s rather kiss or hug”, but sometimes I think that’s the last thing they want when they are angry. We do go a little over the top with recognising and praising when they are kind to each other, like giving something to the other one, or sharing, or kissing or hugging, but it hasn’t lessened the fighting.
Anyway I asked the Twitterverse for some help and I think the best advice given was to put them in separate rooms for five minutes. Although one may start the issue they are both fighting and so need to be separated. I am hoping by giving them time away from each other they will calm down. Also they don’t like to be apart at all, Pudding especially calls for Sausage if he isn’t there and gets quite distressed if he doesn’t respond, so maybe separating them will make them want to be nicer to each other. I think I might also start showing them other ways to let out their frustration, one article suggested throwing cushions at the couch when you need to get out strong emotions, maybe we can try this and tell them to rather do that than throw things at their twin.
Do you have any ideas on how to manage this difficult time, my referee skills seem to be failing me.