Toddler twins

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 14, 2012 06:00 AM

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Barbara -

I have 15 month old twins, and my question is about what to do (if anything) when they both want to play with the same thing. Typically, one will be sitting "reading" a book, and the other will go over and try to take it, with varying degrees of success. Usually the one who loses then dissolves into a fit of tears, but occasionally they both move on happily enough.

They are roughly equal opportunity "offenders" and "victims," although one is slightly more aggressive. I do not want to spend my days mediating small battles, especially as they get older, but of course I want them to learn that its not okay to grab things away from other people. Do you have any thoughts or advice on this both for now and as they get older? (I.e., can I just ignore it? only intervene when it's right in front of my noes? etc.) Thank you!

From: BH, Dedham, MA


Hi BH,

I don't blame you for not wanting to mediate all the time. As they get older, you will need to do less and less of it, but at this age, when they could inadvertently hurt each other by poking an eye or biting, it's best to be near by, paying attention so that you can:

Anticipate that something is about to set one of them off and rredirect his/her attention before it does. Toddlers generally are easily distracted.

Toddlers are ego-centric ("Mine!"). Model the behaviors you want (turn-taking rather than sharing; sharing comes later and it will happen more naturally and easier if they've grasped the idea of turn-taking first). Reinforce the positive behaviors rather than scold for negative ones: "What a good job you did waiting for your turn for the book!"

Give them words: "I can see you want your turn. Let's read this book while we wait." Label their feelings: "I can see you're getting impatient/frustrated/angry."

Stop him in mid-motion. When you see a little arm reaching up to grab something out of the other one's hand, gently take the arm and model what you want him to do and say: "Your brother is reading that book right now. Let's ask him if you can have a turn when he finishes." Then teach turn-taking by framing the question with him: "Can I have a turn with the book?" After he's had it for a few minutes, model the next move: "Now it's your brother's turn again."

Use an egg- timer to arbitrate turn taking; it's a short enough time span for this age, and it's something they can eventually learn to use themselves, plus it's objective, which is much better than you being the arbiter who says, "OK, your time is up." As they get older, switch to a regular timer.

Like any toddlers, twins are working on autonomy, and, like any siblings, they shouldn't have to share everything just because they are twins.

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2 comments so far...
  1. I know what you are talking about, I am a twin myself and my mum tells me we did the same thing. Sometimes you have to leave them to just figure it out and play. As they grow, they will be fine and get along very well. At this point they are still not sure who the other person is, but if they get to the age where they know they are sisters, they will turn to understand each other more. Its a lot of work, but its worth every pain and struggle. My sister now is my bestfriend and I love her to death.Twins are a blessings and as they grow they will bring more joy and blessings to both parents. Enjoy them.

    Posted by Mavis Ofori June 14, 12 12:24 PM
  1. I might have written the same question about our 16 month old twins!! The timer is a great idea, we will be trying that.

    Posted by Mary w June 14, 12 09:30 PM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. I know what you are talking about, I am a twin myself and my mum tells me we did the same thing. Sometimes you have to leave them to just figure it out and play. As they grow, they will be fine and get along very well. At this point they are still not sure who the other person is, but if they get to the age where they know they are sisters, they will turn to understand each other more. Its a lot of work, but its worth every pain and struggle. My sister now is my bestfriend and I love her to death.Twins are a blessings and as they grow they will bring more joy and blessings to both parents. Enjoy them.

    Posted by Mavis Ofori June 14, 12 12:24 PM
  1. I might have written the same question about our 16 month old twins!! The timer is a great idea, we will be trying that.

    Posted by Mary w June 14, 12 09:30 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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