Discipline for Toddler Twins

Disciplining a toddler is tricky, but when your toddler is a twin, it can be twice as tricky!

By this point in your twin journey you have come to terms that twins are not really “two for the price of one.” While they are likely to be “two peas in a pod” (my twins are best friends), their personalities are likely to require two very different discipline styles.

The most important lesson I learned in raising my twins has been to forget (nearly) everything that I used in raising my singeltons.

My pregnancy was different, delivery was different, feeding and sleeping as infants was different, and their toddler years are markedly different. I could moan about how very difficult it is, but really, it is not. Raising twins is not harder or easier. It is just different.

The truth is, my girls are at the same developmental levels for most things, they wear the same size clothing and shoes and they share a bed at night. However, that is where the similarities end.

Our Twin A is pretty laid back, curious, and snuggly. She is generally agreeable and lives for helping me out with household chores. She also gets very bored very easily. Which means she has locked herself into a bedroom, tattooed herself with Sharpie markers, and applied enough make up to make the Jersey Shore girls jealous. In short, she keeps me on my toes to find enough creative explorations to keep her occupied. Which brings us to the first rule of toddler discipline:

  • Stay one step ahead of toddler twins. It is far easier to keep a twin out of trouble than it is to clean up the mess after they find trouble. With my singletons it was easy to keep an “ear” on things while going about my day. With twins it is better to have eyes in the back of my head.

Our Twin B is very self assured, independent, and more than a little bit bossy. As a matter of fact, she wants to boss the entire household around.  I’ve put her in charge of the Wonderpoodle, he could use a little more guidance. The problem is that with this bossiness comes a very strong will. It does not take much for her to escalate into screaming at us, and quite possibly, harming her sister with a set of razor sharp fingernails. As a result I’ve learned to:

  • Teach the more passive twin to assert herself. I’m not saying that I teach her to fight back, but I do encourage “proper” sharing; which includes the borrower actually asking the owner before taking over the borrowed object. I also spend a lot of time teaching the girls forgiveness, and they get to practice forgiveness several times in the average day.

As with every other aspect of raising the twins, I’ve attempted to not treat them as a set, but rather as sibling individuals. This means that:

  • What works for one, may not (probably will not) work for the other. Our Twin A is very easily re-directed. I can convince her to stop climbing on the counter to find candy if I offer her a piece of fruit. Our Twin B needs  things laid out as exact rules with consequences. She is easier to reason with, but tougher to redirect.
  • Pinpointing differences means mom has to be more flexible. So many of us (myself included) have gone into parenthood with specific goals and plans. (ie, I’ll never use time-out,  my kids will never watch TV as a babysitter, I’ll never use food as a reward.) The thing that raising twins taught me is that I had to re-visit some of my “I nevers.”
  • When raising singletons I learned to never choose a consequence that actually punished me. With twins you need to take it a step further. I make it a point to not choose a consequence that also punishes the other twin. This can pit them against each other and quite possibly cause resentment. So, if the girls are misbehaving and I planned to take them to the park in the afternoon, and I warn them to stop fighting, stealing, biting, whatever, I need to be careful about taking the park away as a response to behavior. If both are acting up, it is a great consequence to stay home.However, if one is acting up and the other playing nicely, I could inadvertently punish the behaving twin. I try not to take away the outing unless I have someone available to watch the misbehaving twin. But even a solo trip to the park with mom is no reward, because the well behaved twin will undoubtedly miss her sister.
  • In my house, almost all twin misbehavior is linked to them wanting more time with me. I’ve found the best way to keep peace in the house is to be proactive. I offer special time while the girls are still pleasant and behaving. Snuggles and stories on the couch go a long way to fill their emotional tank, and buy me time afterwards to attend to my tasks.

I’m not a heavy handed disciplinarian. I am a reformed yeller. I’ve been raising my voice less and less. The negative consequence for my older children’s misbehavior is generally the assignment of chores. I’ve not found time-out to be effective for any of my children, though an earlier bedtime usually cures the cause of much of their misbehavior.

All this is to say that I don’t think any books, methods or training systems are needed for twins (or singletons for that matter.) What all children need are loving parents who have consistent boundaries, teach and practice forgiveness and pay attention to their children’s personality traits. The fact is, we are all learning and growing together as a family.

Chime in! What has been your most helpful discipline tool when raising children (twins or singletons)?


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Written by Dakotapam
I'm a Lutheran pastor's wife and mom to six kids, including young adult sons down to 8-year old twin daughters. My life is sometimes normal, and sometimes crazy; but through it all, I know that I am blessed! Some people say that I have my hands full, I prefer to call it living life with both hands full, and I love it!