Raising two or more children at a time is a tough gig, especially if they are your first children. Parenting is an acquired skill—the more you do it, the more confident you feel making decisions and choices. Learning how to manage multiples’ needs and behaviors can be a trying situation, especially if you are uncomfortable or unaccustomed to setting limits and being consistent.
Recently, I spoke to a mom of three-year-old twins who was on the verge of emotional collapse. She was doing her utmost to keep things together, but was struggling with her “gang of two.” Each girl was endlessly competing for the same two cookies, the same number of times on her lap, the same amount of juice in her cup, and on and on and on. When things were not to their liking, they screamed and threw tantrums until they got what they wanted. As you can imagine, the whole family was miserable—mother, father, and daughters. Interestingly, outside of the home, in structured settings such as preschool and daycare, there were very few incidents, and the girls were well behaved and respectful.
This mom, by nature, did not have an assertive personality. She tried her best to set limits but could not follow through when the girls screamed or protested. She said that she tried doing a modified reward system; however, the girls would not cooperate and destroyed the chart and the stickers.
We both concluded that the girls were anxious and upset because they did not feel secure and safe. Children thrive with appropriate limit setting because it enables them to trust the notion that adults are in control and will help them contain their messy and untamed energies. If this mother had given birth to a singleton as a first time parent, I imagine she would have felt masterful and in charge. She is a sensitive and caring woman who finds herself in a situation that she is ill-equipped to manage. I am confident that once she recognizes how much happier the family will be with appropriate limit-setting and boundaries, she will feel the tension and chaos dissipate.
Parenting and personality types are closely connected. Some people prefer parenting a child who is just like them or, conversely, completely unlike them. The important piece to keep in mind when parenting twins is our role in helping them appreciate their uniqueness and individuality.
What unique difficulties have you experienced in parenting multiples? Let me know in the comment section.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net