Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

Potty Training Twins, Part 3 of ?

Tandem lock in. Not the easiest thing for Mama to manage.

We are finally getting it (she said, cautiously).

Today, there has been one (gruesome) accident by Rachel, but after a lecture and putting Panda Man on a high shelf “until she made it to the potty successfully,” she had two minor “hits” on the potty. The thing is, she’s got the runs today. Ahem. Fun stuff. But no way was I putting on a diaper after yesterday!

Yesterday I made sure both girls were full up with milk and ready to go before I started a lock-in with them. Audrey, who napped for two hours bare-bottomed and stayed dry (that’s my girl!) before drinking a cup of milk was sure to be bursting at the seams, and Rachel had had roughly 14 oz of milk in the last hour before her sister got up. Ready Freddy! Right?

Lock in commenced. Lots of playing, which I allowed for a few minutes but then got more serious. “Girls, we just have to go potty before we can go outside and play, ok?” Playing, stalling, more playing, reading volumes and not going…

After 45 minutes (didn’t expect that much delay), Audrey got the job done and got to go out and watch Sesame Street until Rachel was done. Rachel resented the departure of her sister but would not let it sway her to cooperation. She dug in her heels and would not go. Keep in mind she did it earlier in the day and also the day before. I sensed it was stubbornness and after a little bit I had an inkling that this one would be a record breaking holdout. Previous record: 1.5 hours.

I remained the very picture of a calm, supportive mama. I mean I was channeling some zen master…nothing but smiles and encouragement and empathy. For three hours. That’s right. Three hours. (Do they make trophies with a potty on them? Maybe a crying toddler on the floor next to it?)

Actually, I was starting to really doubt myself. Especially because she looked like she was really trying to go a couple of times and then couldn’t, bursting into tears. The thing was, she had done it under the same circumstances earlier and the day before. So I didn’t totally believe it was a new performance anxiety, but she had me second guessing myself. (“I read their sphincter can refuse to open if they aren’t feeling safe…but I know I am providing absolute emotional warmth and safety…”)

I really could not give in, especially the longer it took! If I had, the lesson she’d get would be “If i wait long enough, mama will give in. And she’s waited as long as 2.5 hours, so I now know I must wait longer than that. I will do it because I really want/need to get my way and turn this whole ridiculous potty idea she’s got around.” (Yes, I know toddlers do not think this clearly, but they are very, very determined and expert at testing limits, so sans-words, this is what I think would be happening in her head, more or less.)

So my hands were tied unless I wanted a power struggle from hell on my hands every day. Eventually, she caved. It was dinner time when we emerged from the bathroom. We had gone in there after naps. Luckily, Dad came home before Sesame Street ended and watched over Audrey. Even though I couldn’t give in, Rachel had shaken my conviction in my lock-in method, and I decided during this time that the next day I’d have to change something.

This morning I told them both that I expected them to take themselves to the potty and that I didn’t think we’d have to do any lock-ins because I knew they knew what to do. (Ehh…heh.)

It worked! And guess what? Rachel is not afraid of the bathroom in the slightest, nor treating me any differently than before. She’s her lovely self. And she’s complying (mostly) with my requests to sit on the potty and try to go, even with the trots…and that’s a tough thing to have while learning!

Today I’ve had two potty successes with Rachel and two with Audrey. Audrey’s moving right along…taking herself in there now. She’s very happy to be in charge of this. This mama’s bursting with pride, even knowing the rug could be ripped out from under me any second.

Two more days until traveling. Seems soon. But I remain cautiously optimistic.


Potty Training Twins, Part 2 of ?

Potty training with the girls. Rachel (r) is on the potty here and Audrey gives her a kiss.

How did the girls get this old (almost 2.5), given how I feel about potty training, you wonder? For one thing, everybody knows (and logic dictates) you need more than one person for at least a few days to start potty training twins, but I’d never managed to hook that up in spite of trying. So I’ve gritted my teeth and made several ernest attempts to train them on my own, knowing it would be really hard. And I’d end up so frustrated I thought I’d blow a fuse.

Almost every single time, I’d get an opportunity to teach one girl only to be thwarted by the other. Example: I see that Audrey’s peeing…I move her quickly to the potty and start to tell her that she’s doing great, etc., but suddenly Rachel is pushing Audrey off the potty. Mama wrestles Rachel aside and tells her she needs 2 minutes with Audrey. Now Rachel is climbing on my head. Really. All the time it was like that. It made my head want to explode.

One summer morning we were playing in the backyard when I spotted Rachel starting to poop. I raced over there to catch most of it in a potty and sit her down to encourage her. Dad walked out just in time to see Audrey dunking my abandoned iPhone in my coffee. Less than 10 seconds had passed.

But NOW how are we doing? Well, Thanksgiving is approaching fast and I’m trying not to be discouraged. One day we will be done with this, but oh man! it’s hard to contemplate the holidays at various relatives’ homes if our progress continues to be this slow! Although I know Grandma will be happy and excited to help, which makes me feel better.

First off, here is the best advice I’ve found on potty training: This eBook is $15: oh crap. potty training by Jamie Glowacki. It’s no-nonsense, dispel-the-myths advice, and it’s lengthy (for those of us that are potty-obsessed) covering every scenario the author can think of after training hundreds of kids. This book was brought to my attention by a blogger friend at eliminationcommunication.wordpress.com.

I loved the eBook, and read the whole thing. Jamie’s philosophy matches mine very well. She helped me to see that I caused a casual attitude about the potty in my girls, because of my lack of consistency. Sure it makes sense now!

So aaaanyway, as much as I love the book, I have some pretty big stubbornness with which to contend here. After a week or so, I started what I call “lock-ins”. To get them to stop using the potties as reading chairs and know that I mean for them to GET THIS, I have been locking them in the bathroom with me—sometimes together and sometimes alone—and while I remain supportive and positive, I try to maintain an attitude of sort of bored distraction to give them a feeling of psuedo-privacy to help them relax.

When they are together in the bathroom, they play a lot, so it’s pretty hard. I actually stop them from playing with the paper roll and the toilet seat, and I’ve moved most everything else out of their reach. I remind them that they can go back to playing or watching Elmo after they sit and pee, but otherwise I talk little. They really resist, and I’m not surprised anymore, given the fact that in the past I’ve “caved” and put diapers back on them after a few days or weeks (oh yeah). But not this time! I’ve been really consistent, and pretty stubborn myself (is that where Ray got it?) I’ve sat in the bathroom with one of them for as long as an hour and a half (guess who?) and was prepared to stay even longer if needed!

I know they have to go when I put them in there. In that way, I set us up for success whenever I do a lock-in. Usually one or both have been dancing around, or in Rachel’s case even leaking before I attempt a lock-in. Amazing how they can still hold out for so long! Also I only do about 2 of those a day also, so that I’m not pushing them way over the edge of rebellion. I’m still waiting for them to self-initiate.

Today’s lock in was with both girls, and I told them I’d love to watch Mickey Mouse with them, but I’d have to make sure they peed first. Audrey actually didn’t complain today, just played a little bit, then hopped up on the big potty and peed. Only took about 15 minutes! I parked her on the couch with Mickey and went back to Rachel.

Rachel’s always been more stubborn, but she’s also more verbal. She whined and cried, hugging me endlessly, but eventually climbed up on the big potty and peed. She took about 30 minutes, which is less than half her usual. I feel cautiously optimistic.

Late update: About an hour and a half after the lock-in, Audrey went in to the bathroom and was playing with the big toilet. I checked on her a couple times. She had closed the lid to the big toilet, so couldn’t access the little insert seat. Eventually I heard tinkling on the floor. I sped in there and moved her to the little potty, where she finished, then I had her help clean up the mess. I actually think that this was her trying to self-initiate, and I’m pretty excited. I think she wanted to use the big potty but had already closed the lid, and it locks shut. At least she was in the bathroom! Wish me luck.


Potty Training Twins, Part 1 of ?

Beautiful two-year-olds.

The girls are two years and 5 months. Already. I started this twin journey with intentions to potty train (PT) on the early side. In fact, I had been interested in EC’ing until I found out I was having twins, and then I decided I’d go it more traditionally, but I swore I’d tackle it sooner than most of my contemporaries, out of respect for the kids and a strong belief in instilling confidence. I had high hopes that the girls would be PT’d by age 2, which I thought would be ideal, as I believed they’d be more “helpful” and less oppositional before that age. (See this previous post for my early thoughts on the current trends in potty training and EC.)

I’m still in the middle of it, but I believe now that my intuition was right on all counts, but things got hectic, and I actually let go of some of that intuition in favor of some of the modern wives tales, because I wanted them to be true. Examples: “If it’s not going well, take a break for awhile.” “They’ll do it when they’re ready.” (I have no one to blame but myself for adopting this BS. *FLOG* See my own previous blog post! I knew better! *FLOG*)

And now, the excuses. One problem is that I’m a huge over-acheiver as a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom). I used to happily work for myself—which means of course that I was salesperson, designer, production artist, bookkeeper, planner, time and task manager, etc., all at the same time. And I loved the enforced organization it required. I love getting way more done, and done well, than expected. So that’s the type of mama I am too: I keep myself very busy, fitting in the craziest things between childcare and housekeeping. I was sanding and painting the exterior of my home (many times over…don’t ask!) during nap time for half of their entire infanthood and past their second birthday, which was no small intrusion into my plans to potty train! But I did feel it had to be done. (Our house looked haunted when we bought it, and two sides of it are still in less-than-ideal shape. Don’t get me started.)

I have learned over these two years to cook most anything I’ve ever wanted to—Indian favorites, graham crackers, every style of bread—as a sort of homemaker hobby, but mostly because I highly value being able to identify every ingredient and procedure in my family’s food. This of course is quite time consuming.

And then there are the two blogs (this one is for my sanity and enjoyment), the journals I keep for the girls, the research into schooling options and other things kid-related, and some hours each month pitching in with my husband’s business.

As far as packing my schedule, I got to feel very accomplished, but I shot myself in the foot. I kept myself way too busy. Even at times working late into the night and robbing myself of the already-hard-to-grab sleep of a new mama. But somehow—and this is just hubris—I really thought I could still manage the big stuff like potty training at the same time. Even though I was approaching it as a part time gig. Hmm.

Complicating matters—and this is a big one—I have a friend who has one of those magical toddlers (and take my word for it—this is by all accounts extremely rare) who decided to train herself, pretty much. Then her twin sister seemed to go along for the ride because of the stellar example set for her. Easy peasy, right? Yeah, it really is awesome. For that mama. Over here, I was in awe. And witnessing this genius child, I allowed myself to believe in magic (fueled by some bogus current thought trends): “Maybe my kids will just do it themselves when they are ready too. I mean they’ve gotten lots of exposure. It’s gonna click soon!” I had a sneaking suspicion I was fooling myself, but “Oh!  How convenient it would be…and I’ve got so much to DO before their birthday!” You can hardly blame me.

Meanwhile, I was making regular “attempts” at training (or “learning”—whatever floats your boat) but I didn’t realize I was making things worse by approaching it casually and intermittently. The girls would be bare-bottomed at home (with me trying to catch every pee or poo) but when we’d go out for groceries or play dates, I’d slap their diapers on. So now they take the whole thing very casually too, as in, “It must not be super important, because when it is important, mama puts a diaper on us. So if we wait or protest enough, she’ll give up and give us our comfy diaper.”  (Yep. I did.)

The worst thing is that I wasted tons of my own effort. I was putting a huge amount of energy in when I’d have them “training” here, but I really wasn’t doing it consistently enough to get good results. ‘Cuz I kinda thought it would just click for them one day and they’d take over. Silly mama!

I was ignorant of a couple of key points, which now seem like no-brainers.

Here’s one: Don’t put the potty out for them to “get used to” unless you are going to be actively training. My kids think their potties are reading chairs. I started teaching them about the chairs, very gently, when they were 16 months (picture on that previous post). It was cute and they were sweetly compliant with sitting on it. I brought the girls to the bathroom with me and they showed interest, even making the psst psst sound I’d vocalized to act as a cue for them whenever I’d go. Rachel would run to the door and make that noise—she was clearly into learning more. The thought fills me with woe. If only I’d known that my instincts about their nature at that phase were right and that the compliant desire-to-please attitude they exhibited indicated it was a perfect PERFECT time to spend a week or two being firm and consistent with it, I may have nailed it then.

Another: Don’t buy in to the freaky thought (another currently touted theory) that you can’t be negative in any way when dealing with potty training. The new “experts” advise that you’ll turn your kids off to the whole issue if you display any negativity. This is crap. It makes no sense. Now I’m back to being myself—showing my obvious disappointment when they don’t do what I expect, whether it’s with potty training (peeing on the floor) or anything else (throwing blocks, spitting milk). See? Why would you walk on eggshells with just one issue? What are the kids supposed to think about that? Likely your timidity will make them think you’re scared and confused. I was! Why didn’t I go ahead and overthink this stuff too, like I do everything else? Oh, right! I was too dang busy! *FLOG* Silly mama. 🙂

Clearly, I had the right idea in the beginning, I just believed, erroneously, that it would be more effortless. Effortless! What was I thinking? Why would it require no effort from me? That’s just weird. That is, if you disregard all my great excuses.

Much more to come, including ridiculous stories that make it clear why it sucks to train two at once.


And Now It Gets Much Harder…Or Does It?

The toddler years were the most daunting to contemplate when I was told I was having twins. They still are! These are the months and years I worried about the most. The ones my mom worried about on my behalf. And they are here.

The girls have just passed their second birthday and we had some extremely difficult days leading up to it. The thing is…I know it’s only the beginning. I’ve actually said it—if only to myself—many times recently, “This is the real beginning of the toddler times.” Way long ago last summer, when one of the girls had her first public tantrum at Sea World because we wouldn’t walk in her chosen direction, I thought that was the beginning. And it was. Sort of. See, it keeps escalating…the toddlerness I mean. And I’m scared that I can’t even guess how much further we have to go on this journey of willfulness and contrariness. Hoo boy. I mean…they are just barely TWO now!

Time to be honest. Most of the time, I handle the day-to-day craziness very well. I’m happy to give myself this credit because I actually work really hard at it. But occasionally—always when I have to get something done—I can’t handle it, and I freak out a little…throw my own tantrum.

After the birthday, I spent 9 days toddler proofing the kitchen so that I could finally take the gates (mostly) down in the house. I knew that most of the acting up was because they are getting too old to be cooped up in two rooms. I looked forward to getting the project done so I could let them help me with little tasks in the kitchen, which should help them feel some more power and control, and, in theory, act up less.

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Well, that whole week was terrible because I was trying to get projects done and they were acting up like crazy due to my being less attentive. But I pushed through anyway, knowing that at the end was the best prize they could hope for: freedom!

I opened up the kitchen Sunday night (or was it Monday?) and they have been having a blast. They can now run a circuit around the kitchen/living room wall if they like (I wish they would run some laps), draw on the chalkboard wall in the kitchen, help me with little kitchen tasks, and get into new sorts of mischief.

So the kitchen is organized and looks rather good for a mid-remodel kitchen, and I was right…the girls are acting up a little less now, because they are being allowed to exercise more control over their environment. And I have been having success with the gentle parenting method of firmly but respectfully reminding them of boundaries and giving them the choice to comply before I pluck them (Audrey) off the garbage cans…again…and again. Now that I’ve had a few good nights’ sleep.


Update On Four Meals, and a Recipe

We’ve been adhering to a four-meal-per-day system for over a month now (read this post to see why we started it) and I have to say, it’s been a huge success. Not only is it easier for me to plan and serve four meals, rather than 3 meals plus 2 snacks (seems not a big difference, but it is…what can I say?) but the girls are hungrier at each meal, and so they eat more with less fuss.

I do not force anything on them. I give them three to four choices. Often they won’t eat one of them, and that’s okay. Because like every mom, I do have some go-to meals that I know give them their needed nutrition. This helps me to relax when they eat NO dinner, and that happens at least once a week because they don’t like what we’re eating (falafel, anyone?) Rachel always tries the food now, which is fun and encouraging, and if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t eat more. Audrey will still size things up by how they look and sometimes reject without trying. But she’s slowly getting more willing to have a taste.

Dinner is always with us at the “dining room” table (it’s in the living room). And for this last meal, I’ve continued to offer whatever we eat to the girls, with occasional exceptions…lately we’ve eaten a lot of salads, and I don’t expect 22-month olds to eat those, so I offer them some components of the salad, like chicken and avocado, with, say, a quesadilla. At the end of every meal they get milk, in a regular, open cup. They love this part. They are getting really skilled at drinking this way. Rachel didn’t spill a drop of her OJ this morning!

Since starting the four-meal days, trips to restaurants are less stressful—they know what is happening (high chair always means meal time) and they are considerably more patient, as well as attentive to their food. It’s amazing! Truthfully, we have only put this to the test once since the last post, I think, but still…it was a good experience. They were amazingly well-behaved, and it was a somewhat-lingering dinner at our friends’ restaurant.

So the early benefits have lasted. I’m completely sold on it. Oh, one other thing: it matches with my philosophy of showing the girls that every family member’s needs and time are important. They are old enough to wait for their meals to come at predictable times, not demand that mom drop everything and get them a snack. (Not that they did that before, but they are under 2, and eating all day would seem to cultivate an appetite for immediate gratification eventually, and that’s something I don’t want them to grapple with any more than necessary.)

And now, here are some fun food standbys that make my life easier.

Rachel scarfs some "Half and Half Soup." Here's a tip on boxed organic soups: Imagine Foods has the lowest sugar content by far...much lower than Amy's.

The first is “half and half soup”—a lazy creation of mine that I think is fun. The girls like tomato soup by itself but they don’t like butternut squash soup as much, for instance. So I started getting them to eat a bit more of the latter by pouring yogurt on one side of the bowl and the soup on the other. And now I do this for tomato too, to cut the sodium down and give them more calcium and protein. And here’s the best part: I serve it cold…so I pour the sides simultaneously right out of the refrigerated cartons. So easy for mom!

And below is my recipe for Zucchini-Banana Bread (AllRecipes link—easier to print), which is quite beloved by my family and friends. I wanted a good snack to give the babes when they started eating solids, that didn’t contain too much sugar and did contain some protein, iron and vitamins. So I made batch after batch of zucchini bread with various modifications until I got some I really loved, and the girls always go for it. Now I usually make it in large batches of muffins and freeze them individually. It is lightly sweetened with molasses and bananas, and it’s egg-free (but not vegan) because little Audrey gets hives from eggs, sadly.

Often I make this lower fat by substituting apple sauce for half of the canola oil, and that’s how I’ll regularly make them when the girls are older. Also, if you don’t have that much zucchini, shredded carrot works great too!

Zucchini-Banana Muffins the whole family loves!

Low-Sugar Zucchini-Banana Bread


  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini


  1. Grease two 8 x 4 inch pans, or 4 mini loaf pans, or muffin tins. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, mashed bananas, molasses, yogurt and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Fold in zucchini and pour into pans.
  5. Bake for 50–55 minutes for 8 x 4 inch pans, 40–45 for mini-loaf pans. 25 minutes for muffins.
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Sweet Thoughts on Positive Discipline

“The inevitable result of consistently employing power to control your kids when they’re young is that you never learn how to influence.” —Thomas Gordon

“I know that when my child rejects me, I’m tempted to withdraw from her emotionally.  But giving her the cold shoulder doesn’t teach her anything positive about how to build a relationship.  Worse, it undermines the supportive relationship that is her best protection throughout childhood.  Remind yourself that when kids are at their least lovable, that’s when they need your love the most.” — Dr. Laura Markham

“Here’s a bumper sticker I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child who’s self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.” — George Carlin

The girls happily playing together. They cooperate very well most of the time.

I’m learning a lot about “Positive Discipline” and trying to employ its tenets here in our household. It matches so well with what I want to accomplish and what I want to convey to my kids, I’m very glad I’ve found it and that there are such great resources to support my efforts.

Here are three examples of what it looks like in our house:

The easiest one: I don’t punish the girls for undesirable behaviors. I keep in mind their curious, learning stage and realize they have to test everything, multiple times. It makes me infinitely more patient, but this does require I take care of myself well, so that I have this capacity to stop and think before reacting. If it’s something we really don’t do, such as bang on the wall heater, I remove them promptly and redirect, telling them it’s “not safe”. This was always my most consistent reaction, but the difference now is that I remember their stage and don’t let my frustration escalate as much. If they can’t be deterred, then I change the situation to keep them safe, and I’ll tell them why as briefly and respectfully as possible. (“I have to block the hallway off until you can be safe around the heater. I understand you’re not there yet, and it’s okay.”)

The sweetest one: When a girl has a tantrum, I get close to her and tell her I understand her feelings, naming them as best I can. I offer hugs if she wants, and if she doesn’t I tell her I’m here when she wants one, and then stay close by, shooting loving glances and smiles until she feels like getting that hug. This one is fun and warm, making it pretty easy to implement. The only problem is when I’ve got dinner on the stove or something. But then I just stay in communication with the girl while I go and turn the stove off or whatever.

The most difficult one: I’m weaning myself off of “Good job!” and instead trying to say, “Look what you can do!” and “You did it!” For some reason it’s very hard to stop myself from the old standby. The thought behind this, in its short form, is that it helps the child to develop an inner sense of accomplishment, not to live for your praise alone. I used to think this was mumbo jumbo, but I don’t anymore. However, it’s going to take some time to retrain me. I do try to think in terms of how I can get them to be proud of themselves, rather than how they can make me proud. In fact, this is one thing I’ve done from early on—I say, “You must be proud of yourself!” a little more often than I say, “I’m proud of you!” But the latter phrase definitely pops out from time to time.

I like the warmth and trust inherent in these techniques, but I have a little further to go to get practiced at them. Another thing I really want to do is separate the girls when Dad is home and we each spend 10 uninterrupted minutes with each toddler, doing whatever they choose to do. Dad is excited about this too, but we haven’t done it yet. We have to get organized. I think first thing in the morning would be a great time for this, but they do love to play together at that time. Maybe before dinner would be better.

For more information on Positive Parenting, try Dr. Laura Markham’s website, which has an absolute wealth of information: http://www.ahaparenting.com/


Double Coverage

The girls are fully into the competitive stage. For the past few weeks, they’ve been increasingly nabbing toys from each other, pushing, hitting, and engaging in a sort of aggressive wrestling, which sometimes includes covert biting. There’s also what I call “rhino-ing,” where one girl uses her head and shoulders to bulldoze the other girl out of her way. This behavior frequently gets reciprocated, so they look like a couple of rhinos in a dust-up. Or what I imagine rhinos to look like. Probably I’m not even close. Whatever.

Audrey already in rhino position to remove Rachel from my lap. And this was not even a frustrated moment for them. It's just what they do now.

Anyway, it gets really nerve-wracking, especially when one girl needs hugs and comfort. It never fails these days that as soon as I embrace one girl, the other girl will horn in (See?…rhino imagery again), suddenly needing some hugs and comfort too—and then they are each pushing and wrestling for position on my lap, while also violently writhing away from any hint of contact with the other. (How do they do those at the same time?) It’s a little comical because while they are in this frantic state, they can’t tell the difference between my hand touching them or their sister’s, so it gets really theatrical and flailing as they hurl themselves around trying to avoid being touched. It’s exhausting!

I have two ways of dealing with this so far, and I’d love to hear from anyone who can offer other tools.

First, I try to get us all to share the space, saying “Left and right, girls. (I’m trying to make this an easily identified phrase with lots of repetition.) See? One of you can sit on my left, one on my right, and there’s plenty of room for all of us! Left and right!” I can snug each of them up on my lap and in my arms without them even touching each other if they are cooperative, and it’s quite cozy and comforting. This currently only works 5% of the time.

Alternatively, I tell the “other” girl that “A/R needs my attention right now. I’m going to come back to you in just a few minutes.” At this point, I usually have to actually leave the room with the first girl, but I am trying to slowly get them used to the words “I need 2 minutes with your sister” so that they can eventually occupy themselves for 2 minutes with relative patience. I also go straight to this separation method when somebody has been hurt and is crying hard, or when I just can’t de-escalate the competition and fighting.

I’m also committed to trying to spend alone time (ideally, twice a day) with each girl, and I’ve got hubby on board with this plan too. Just 10 minutes of devoted time for each one, where they get to direct what we do. Because I am aware that being twins they are nearly always together, and while they love this so much of the time and they do cooperate, as their independence buds they need some individual expression time too.

Do you have other methods for dealing with toddlers or any siblings competing?


No More Time Outs

Audrey surprised me by reaching a knife this way! Would time outs have stopped her from climbing up here? Doubtful.

I’ve become aware of the trend moving parents away from the now-long-standing discipline of time outs. Just one issue with it is that kids are usually isolated during a time out. And since kids act out when they have a need that’s not being met (in our case it’s more attention they want), putting them in an isolated time out leaves that need unmet, causing more angst and potentially creating the long-term tendency to bottle up feelings.

I have to admit to an early vague sense of unease about the banishment aspect of time outs. That said, I probably would have employed it if we had space in our house. Because I hadn’t taken the time to think through why it was unsettling, and in the back of my mind I figured “Well, this has been the standard advice for a couple of decades now, so there must be something to it.” I mean had to DO something to send my message, right?

As it was, I used time outs during the heaviest spate of the twins’ banging on the windows, biting, throwing, and hitting. The girls had just discovered each behavior and were both engaging in all of them all day, every day, for a couple of weeks. It was exasperating! I sensed I had to put a stop to these dangerous/hurtful behaviors, so I automatically employed the time out method. The girls were only about 15 months old, so this meant that I held them, hands on knees, in the corner for about 40 seconds. Then let them go without any further lecture. (Now I see that I got lucky in not being able to banish them to another room or isolated spot, which likely would have made it more painful. However, any sort of punishment avoids the base need, so it’s a temporary, and even inappropriate, fix.)

They’d always giggle at first, then sometimes start to cry a bit. But here’s a lesson that came quickly and directly because of having twins: while one was in time out, the other wanted to be in time out! So instinctively, I knew that the entire “issue” was that they wanted my attention. The undesirable behaviors were simply the girls’ attempt to get more of ME, but I still used time outs because they had started to work. The girls learned the things they weren’t supposed to do and stopped doing them, in just a couple of weeks.

Now, the norm is that they don’t do those things. But when they are hungry and mom is finishing painting a fence outside their window (“I know you are hungry…I’m almost done…I’ll be right there!”) they start throwing their toys out and, if that doesn’t get me inside, banging on the window! Of course! Because it’s not that they don’t know that it’s disallowed behavior. It’s that, if they need or want me, they simply don’t care! Makes sense, right?

I am so glad this issue came to my attention, because I now realize I give a lot of thought to a lot of things but I hadn’t gotten to thinking over “discipline” techniques yet. And since my main objective is to respect my children, I’d like to find another way to teach them the rules.

The article that I refer to in my first blog post mentions that the French don’t use the word “discipline” the way we do—the author is met with “…you mean educate…?” when she brings it up. And this sort of makes you think. Yes, education is the goal. So how exactly does punishment help the learning process?

I think not using punishment takes more attention from the parents but is likely to yield better results—confident, secure children and then, adults. More time. Just like every issue facing us, kids need tons of our time and attention. And of course it’s not possible to become completely unproductive aside from child-rearing. But with the right amount of attention given them, they’ll go on their merry way for little stretches of time (and yes, I have twins who play together, but many singletons can do this also, and a singleton typically doesn’t brawl with herself either, so it’s a trade-off the way I see it) and those little stretches are what you need to grab…no lollygagging! When you see contentment on their faces, run away and get to journaling, or chopping veggies for dinner, or painting the fence, or reading something! And come back soon with lots of smiles, hugs, and help with that puzzle or book.

I’m going to be looking more into the idea of Positive Discipline (I have this book, actually) and I will share my impressions soon. In the meantime, I have to check out my new knitting book while the babies are asleep!

Here are a couple of articles, the first one is especially helpful:

Timeouts: Good, Bad, or Unnecessary? by Dr. Laura Markham

Positive discipline: Why time-outs don’t work  by Susan Stiffelman

Oops! Too late. They are up. 🙂

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