All children have tantrums, and my twins have certainly thrown their fair share. Honestly, simply picturing it—the crying, the irrationality, the full-blown insanity of it all—begs for aspirin or a glass of wine to soothe the pain!
Finding out that we were having twins instantly filled my husband, Andy, and me with joy, but, of course, it also made our heads spin. As first-time parents, the idea of managing twins was something we had a hard time envisioning. Managing tantrums did not even occur to us until, well, they started occurring.
Reality set in quickly.
At first I found tantrums to be unpredictable, seemingly coming out of nowhere. But when I started researching the science behind tantrums, I began to see patterns of what I call "tantrum vulnerability." Basically, tantrums are more likely to occur for my twins when:
• They are overtired.
• Their schedule has been adjusted in some way.
• They are hungry.
• They are in a new environment that could be a bit overwhelming (especially for someone who has just two years of life experience).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
One saving grace,
which I hope is the case for all twin parents, is that my twins have rarely had total and utter meltdowns at the exact same time. If one starts to lose it, the other generally gets quiet and watches. I am not sure whether the calm child is just observing in shock or actively trying not to worsen the situation. Either way, it's comforting to know that both kids are unlikely to have tantrums at the same time.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
There are, of course, other unexplained triggers that can spoil the most perfect afternoon out. But if I keep the above in check, my twins are generally happier and more patient.
Countdown to a Meltdown
Sometimes that's easier said than done. Just a few evenings ago, we went to an early dinner at a dear friend's house. The twins ate dinner right on time and were having a ball playing with their friends. All was going so great that Andy and I lost track of time.
Once we realized it was nearly an hour past the twins' bedtime, we quickly gathered our things and went to get the kids out of the play area. I looked at my daughter and knew within seconds she didn't want to go, she was overtired, and the countdown to meltdown city was on.
"I DON'T WANT TO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Andy and I tried to reason with her for about 90 seconds. Then we made the fastest exit you have ever seen. It was not the way we wanted to say goodbye, but it was necessary.
My Reaction Makes a Difference
Whether they are brought on by known or unknown triggers, tantrums are going to happen. And when they do, there is no secret recipe for diffusing the situation. It has been proven that tantrums often simply must run their course. They have been compared to a computer locking up, needing a reboot because of information overload.
Keeping that in mind helps me parent through the twins' tantrums.
If we are home and a tantrum begins, now I often talk to my son or daughter in a normal tone of voice and say, "You are having a tantrum and not being very nice." I then walk them or carry them to their room and tell them that they can come out when they are ready to behave.
So far, this approach is working better than any of my previous tactics (which—I'm not going to lie—at times included panicking and yelling back as though I was also 2 years old).
I believe my being focused and as calm as possible does help in some small way. And giving the children time to collect themselves in their room—the safest place in their small world—allows them to take ownership of and manage their emotions independently.
This is just what is working today, though. So if anyone has the ultimate cure-all for tantrums, I would love to hear it!
What's Behind A Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct The Screams by NPR.org
Temper tantrums in toddlers: How to keep the peace by The Mayo Clinic
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