Taming Twin Preschoolers

I often hear from parents of twins between the ages of 2 through 4 who are frustrated by their children’s misbehavior. Preschoolers love to test their limits and push their boundaries as they explore their world. And they frequently behave the worst for their parents because they know they’ll always have their love. Following are some tactics for helping to tame your preschoolers’ behavior:

Consistency: Make sure that you are always consistent with discipline. If you tell your twins that they will not be able to watch TV if they throw one more toy, then be sure to follow through on your threat. Too many parents give in, or give their children just “one more chance,” because they don’t want to listen to the children complain. But punishments are only effective if your children know that you will follow through with them.

Distraction: If your children are beginning to misbehave, rather than engaging in a shouting match, steer them over to another activity. If they’re fighting over a toy, say, “Who would like to come over here and play this game with me?” Get them away from the activity that is causing friction.

Separation: Twins often get too much togetherness and start getting on each other’s nerves. Or they reinforce each other’s naughty behavior. Try to get them involved in separate activities. Have one color while the other plays with blocks, and then they can switch after a while. If you or your spouse is running an errand, take one child with you while the other stays with the other parent.

Burn off energy outdoors: Children this age have lots of energy and often get stir-crazy being in the house all day. Be sure they’re getting lots of unstructured playtime outside. Play ball in the yard or head to the park. Look for bugs and butterflies, or build a snowman.

Rules and structure: Kids thrive on routine. Make sure they go to bed at the same time every night. Try to make mealtime and bathtime the same time every day. When children know what to expect, they’ll start to cooperate better.

Reinforce good behavior – catch them being good! If one child gives a toy to another, praise him or her. “I love how you shared that toy with your brother!” “You did a really nice job eating your lunch!” Be sure to praise the behavior. Don’t say, “You were such a good boy today!” They won’t know what activity earned your praise. Be specific. “Thank you for getting your socks on so we can go outside!”

Take a break: Make sure you’re getting enough time for yourself. Your needs are as important as your children’s. Some days, instead of doing the laundry or other housework while the kids are at preschool, treat yourself to a movie (that doesn’t have cartoon characters) or just relax by reading a book. Relaxation time is important to recharge your batteries and restore your patience.

It’s easier to handle your preschoolers’ misbehavior when you remember that they are not intentionally trying to drive you crazy! They are doing what comes naturally for children that age. It is how they learn about cooperation, building relationships, and more. Soon, they’ll be five and your sanity just might return!

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.