I guess this post’s title should be more of a question – How do you effectively deal with and prevent toddler tantrums? Is there anything more specific I should know in regards to twins having them…at the same time? Tales of a Twin Mombie recently talked about this issue, so I know it’s not just me!
To be honest, C is not much of a meltdown type of toddler, thankfully. She’s opinionated and she wants what she wants, so if B were to grab something right out of her hands she would likely scream a bit, but that’s about it. She’s easy-going and good-natured. She doesn’t take things out of B’s hands and generally listens when I say “no”. So I guess she’s not really the issue.
But B – I mean, I’ve been talking about this for months. How he went through a 12 month sleep/behavior regression, where he would scream for like 20 minutes at a time for no reason, wake up in the middle of the night, etc. And I knew it was a regression because everything about him changed, and then (most of it) changed back. He sleeps just fine. He doesn’t cry for 20 minutes at a time, and his meltdowns have specific reasons. But there’s still a lot of them.
See, there’s two parts to this issue. The first factor and the one that sometimes makes me scratch my head is B’s level of curiosity. This boy is SUPER curious. Way more than C. Both my husband and I have made the (first time) parent mistake of giving in to avoid a meltdown. B would want to see what’s on the counter, we would pick him up and let him take it (if it was safe, of course). The things he wanted, and would take, would range from my school water bottle to a spatula to a colander – you name it. He went grocery shopping with my husband and got to touch a pineapple. We once let the babies help us feed the dogs their dinner (scoop the food, put it into the bowls, deliver bowls to dogs, watch eat). Well here’s the thing that I guess is quite obvious now in retrospect: In doing those things one or two times, B wants to do it EVERY TIME. And times that by two when it comes to feeding the dogs – they are both pulling on my pants and shrieking to help. Not a doggy meal can go by without them now screaming at our feet. And if we’re too tired or drained, or the pineapple is sharp and is not exactly for playing with, or god forbid our HANDS ARE FULL -meltdown(s). And now we’ve created a monster. We have baby-proofed all the cabinets in the kitchen, but if I try to do some dinner prep and have to open one up, B yells for his pot. Because one time, I gave him a small pot. Then he immediately screams for a “poon” – because the time I gave him the pot, I gave him a ladle and told him to “stir the pot”. And now heaven forbid I open those cabinets and NOT give him those two things. And of course these are easy toys that I don’t mind giving him whatsoever. But then sometimes – the black ladle won’t do. He wants the wooden spoon. And when that’s not quite right, you have to dig out each kitchen utensil until there’s one that satisfies him. Clearly in these times, he rules the roost and I don’t particularly want to hear him scream and throw his body all over the floor for the 8th time that day. What have we done???
The thing is – I believe in giving in to curiosity and exploration. I believe in providing toys for toddlers that aren’t really toys. I really enjoy how his whole face lights up when he holds something new, something oddly shaped, something I use myself in the kitchen. How his lips pucker and he says, “Ooooh” and if he really likes it, he gives it a kiss. I want him to explore. I just don’t want him to meltdown every time he isn’t exploring on his terms. And of course we do say no – constantly. It’s the “no’s” that cause the meltdowns. And even with distraction, we have to say no – he wants EVERYTHING he can see. Any item he wants to hold, any drawer or cabinet he wants to open. He wants everything. So I guess on the one hand, I need some new ideas for things to give him that will 1) stimulate his curiosity but that are 2) easy to give him whenever he needs it. Because he obviously is craving the exploration and discovery and I want to be able to give that to him with as few meltdowns as possible.
On the other hand, the second issue we face is that there are two toddlers playing with the same toys at the same time. I’d say B’s meltdowns are about 50/50. Half because he wants things I won’t let him have (i.e., everything), and half because he wants what C has. I know that this behavior is normal. 15 month olds don’t know how to share much. I also know that these behaviors wouldn’t likely be seen in kids this young if they were single children, because they would have whatever they want. In preschool in a few years, I’d notice, hey, my three-year old doesn’t like to share. But we’re seeing these issues now. The yanking of toys out of hands, the biting, the hitting, the pushing. The screaming. And at this age, the babies don’t have the words to say, as a preschooler would, “She took my toy”. Having two babies the same age is a juggling act when it comes to dishing out the toys. If I give them both the same toy, (like one giant toy to share)…of course, they won’t share it. If I give them two different toys (or books or blocks or spoons…etc) they want what the other one has. Sometimes I find success in giving them two of the same toy (two purple spoons, coming right up) or physically placing them away from each other when they play. But again, none of these options last a long time. They like to play together in the same space and I like for them to do that as well. It also makes my job a bit easier, having them in the same area. But it’s constant distraction. I’m constantly saying when one wants what the other has, “Look B, what’s this??” He comes over, interested. But C drops what she was playing with (and what B originally wanted), she’s curious too. “No, C, this one is for you.” She walks over. B comes too. And so on.
There’s just a lot of crying, a lot of fighting in our house. A lot of sharing issues, a lot of wanting what they want and when they want it. And a lot of first time parents giving in so many times, wanting to make them happy and wanting to stimulate their curiosities, only to regret it later.
So I’m on the hunt for new ideas and ways to keep the meltdowns to a minimum. I know they’re normal. But I want to meet B’s needs, as I believe I’m meeting C’s needs. And B needs to explore.