Surviving the terrible twos with twins is usually not the first thing parents think of when they are informed that twins are on the way.  ‘There’s one and there’s another’ are the words that many hear when the doctor performs the first ultrasound and announces to the expectant parents that twins are on the way. 

This is often met with competing emotions such as complete exhilaration and gripping fear.  These parents aren’t equipped yet on how to make it through what could be a tough pregnancy, let alone surviving the terrible twos with twins

Although pregnancy and the first year with twins can be quite a challenge, this article will focus on the bigger challenge of surviving the terrible twos with twins.

The first year with twins goes by quickly mostly due to the fact that parents are completely exhausted and walk around in a fog.  Daily routines for themselves have fallen by the wayside in order to completely care for the infant twins.  During these times, family and friends are around to help and this alleviates some of the burden while trying to adjust to a whole new way of being. 

Surviving the terrible twos with twins

As the second year of the twin’s lives approaches the outside help dissipates somewhat and parents are left to their own devices to make it through. 

The idea of taking a long, hot shower becomes increasingly enticing, yet still out of reach.  It is just not possible to take those few minutes while the twins are now climbing on everything in sight.  And, if one didn’t think of the idea, it will be thought of by the other and followed along.  Two at two, what a joy!

Around the two year birthday, the twins begin to develop a bigger curiosity for the world and a sense of independence and watch out Mom and Dad when you try to set limits. This is the first tip to surviving the terrible twos with twins and one of the most important. 

We often see parents who are so exhausted and just find it “easier” to give in rather than set limits.  Unfortunately the children begin to learn that the more they push, the more they get, and this will not help any parent who has an interest in surviving the terrible twos with twins.

The reason why parents give in after a bit of time is because the whining and the crying can be deafening especially toward the end of a long day.  Parents will resort to anything just to stop the noise.  This is understandable of course, but sadly it won’t help in surviving the terrible twos with twins.

It is crucial to pick a limit of your choosing and stick with it.  It is less important about what the limit is, but gravely important that once you set it, you are consistent.  For example, if the children are allowed to watch a bit of TV in the morning and you have decided that 15 minutes is enough, then you must stick to that when you tell them it is time to shut off the TV. 

They will not have any sense about what 15 minutes means, but they will definitely have a sense of you following through when you say it is time for the TV to be turned off.  If you delay and delay you are setting everyone up for failure.  Surviving the terrible twos with twins is doable; the easiest way to do it is by setting limits and sticking to them.

Most parents are afraid of the temper tantrums that their twins may go through and especially so in public places.  It is often seen that parents will do almost anything to prevent a tantrum and is evidenced by the loosening of limits and giving in. This is great for the short term of preventing the tantrum, but it does not help the children or the parents in surviving the terrible twos with twins. 

Children that are given anything when they whine and scream enough are not being given the tools to move through this stage and deal with frustrations and work them out for themselves.  Most tantrums occur because their language isn’t fully developed and they cannot fully communicate their needs.  The also want something that maybe they can’t have such as ice cream right before dinner. 

Long explanations fall on deaf ears at this stage, but a simple sentence of “no you may not have ice cream now, we will be having dinner soon,” is short enough with a firm limit.  Inevitably this will lead to screams, jumping up and down, maybe even throwing things, but please remember that if you give in at that moment, rest assured you will not be surviving the terrible twos with twins. 

Nor will you be communicating to your child that you are in charge. As they begin to see the lack of response to them in those moments the fewer tantrums you will see.  The more parents give in, the more tantrums parents will see.

Surviving the terrible twos with twins can feel daunting at times, but it is possible to make it through. 

Around this time of independence it is also possible to see some sibling rivalry appear especially with twins of the same gender. As parents, the big buzz word is “share,” but I must tell you that twins need to feel a sense of proprietary over some things as they are forced to share more often than a single child.

If it is possible, let the twins have some of their own toys and don’t force them to share it with the other.  This will happen naturally as they begin to see each other as playmates.  If they are always feeling that something will be taken from them and given to the other, their need to hang onto the object will be greater.

Surviving the terrible twos with twins takes an artful approach that requires skill and patience.  Well meaning advice from strangers is not always helpful as the personalities of your twins is not known to them.  The sibling rivalry may also rear its head in the form of competing for time with Mom or Dad.  It is important that special time is given to each child.  This will also help in surviving the terrible twos with twins.

Potty training can be a difficult time with one child, but it can be extremely difficult with twins.  A big challenge that parents face is when one twin is ready before the other.  It is imperative that parents avoid playing one against the other in order to motivate. This will back-fire and leave the child feeling angry and sad and they may even lose a bit of trust in the parent trying to push. 

Potty training happens when the child is ready and many factors play into that.  I do encourage parents to begin exploring the potty as an option around 2.5 years; could be earlier or a bit later depending upon the individual child. Show them how you go on the toilet and make it fun and without any stress. 

Use stickers as a reward for going on the potty.  One sticker for pee-pee and two for poo-poo, or whatever works in your family. Does the child have a favorite character such as Elmo?  Many stores sell character potty covers that fit on the toilet and this can increase the desire to use the potty. 

Again, please do not make it a competition between the twins as this only leaves them feeling frustrated, lonely and not desirous of going on the potty.  There are many developmental stages going on during the second year of life and not all of them are fraught with difficulties and even when they are, there is still much joy to be had during this time. 

There are some other quick tips to be mentioned in order to make surviving the terrible twos with twins a bit easier. If it is within the budget find a school program that they can attend every morning.  This helps them to become social, follow directions from others and begin to gain a sense of efficacy in their environments.

Structure and routine are quite important during this time and school helps to provide that.  Too often, parents do not put their twins on consistent and regular routines and this leads to chaos and exhaustion for all involved.  The child that does not have to wonder when meal or naptime is, for example, feels safe in their environment.  Predictability breeds comfort during this stage.

Surviving the terrible twos with twins can be a daunting challenge, but it can be done.  Limit setting, ignoring tantrums, taking time for you, and creating special time with each child are all ways to make this stage easier and survivable.  Please remember to smile and laugh a lot with your twins and take that long, hot shower while your spouse, friend or family is taking care of the kids. Humor and a good nap can also help.

Jennifer Kelman

Jennifer Kelman is a Social Worker, Certified Professional Coach, Author and Entrepreneur.  She is also surviving being a mother of 2 ½ year old boy/girl twins. Learning to embrace their independence while also setting firm limits has helped the entire family move through this stage without too much tumult. Jennifer has an active imagination and after the birth of her twins created two children’s characters, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, Silliest, Warmest Know-It-All,™ and her lovable dog, Moopus McGlinden.™ Together they inspire self-esteem in children through their love, warmth and silliness.  Jennifer has created a full line of products around these characters including dolls, music and a children’s book series. In her coaching business, Jennifer likes to work with those individuals who have the entrepreneurial spirit but need a bit of cheerleading along the way. Her life is busy and exciting and every day she meets the challenge of surviving the terrible twos with twins