DEALING with DOUBLE DUTY DISCIPLINE
By Cheryl Lage
Here is my question:
How do you discipline twins?
It never fails; one of the boys will do something bad and I "try" to discipline him and the other one just laughs at the bad behavior.
It seems whatever I try nothing works. They keep getting into trouble and sometimes doing the bad behavior over and over. Any ideas?
You have hit on so many aspects that make twin discipline tricky....
1.) “One will do something bad and the other one laughs....”
Man, does that ever make twin discipline challenging!
Right alongside the corrective “negative” response the undesired behavior gets from you, the violator is getting very “positive” laugh response from their sibling.
You may be a stronger individual than I, but admittedly there are occasions when I even have to squelch a smile or laugh following an awful (but sometimes undeniably funny) behavior I TRULY do not want to have become a regular practice. (Many of which involve food in our house....)
My husband in his infinite wisdom and ever-succinct phrasing began to use the laughter diffuser (whether the laughter came from a twin or despite our best efforts, a parent),
“There are lots of things that are funny, but that does not make it right.”
And then we follow up with whatever deemed punishment/correction the act merits. Another phrase we use frequently when things go overboard while playing/wrestling/etc. is
“Fun is Fun; but Rules are Rules.”
Ultimately, what will need to be conveyed is that funny or not, certain behaviors won’t be accepted. And that you as the parent (not the sibling) are the one who dictates what will and won’t go in your household.
2.) “It seems whatever I try nothing works.” and “They keep getting into trouble and sometimes doing the bad behavior over and over.”
Guess what? I think those two statements/facets of twin family life are inextricably linked. At least they have been in our house.
As parents, I think a major hurdle we need to leap is the realization that when a behavior doesn’t immediately stop, that does not necessarily mean the correction/punishment “isn’t working”.
The phrase “whatever I try” implies that you (not unlike any of us) have tried different punishments when the bad behaviors don’t cease after the first or second imposition of the attempted correction.
Unfortunately, as twin parents, we feel we are so constantly “correcting” to no avail...that one or both twins don’t take our disciplinary steps seriously enough to alter their behavior...so instead, we alter ours as parents, and try multiple different corrective methods.
The twins are seeking a consistent response. If an infraction is met with a time-out once or twice, and then a removed privilege or treat on time number three, and a retried time-out on the fourth occurence, then by only a firm “NO!” from an overtaxed parent on violation #5...believe me, if they haven’t already, twin number two will try to determine what happens when he/she commits the same infraction.
Yes, all the responses are “negative”, so thankfully, they are learning that the act is “bad”; but they are trying to learn X cause = X effect.
When you think about it, many of even the earliest milestones they have reached have been the result of that type of call-to action=response curiosity.
When I cry, Mommy or Daddy changes my diaper.
When I wave “Bye-Bye”, others wave back.
When I say “Mama”, she smiles and takes care of me.
Imagine the confusion when “I do “X” behavior, and either A, B, C, D, or E happens.” All are unpleasant, but I don’t really know what is going to happen...guess I need to keep trying “X” behavior until I find out for sure.
I know that may sound like oversimplification, but it is logic I have been unable to deny...and it seemingly works. By “works” I don’t mean it all less-than-attractive behavior comes to an ardently-prayed-for screeching halt, but with consistency, our twins “learn” quicker that the repercussions of their actions ARE going to be met with the same, predictable, unenjoyable result.
I know in our house, odd as it seems, sometimes a new negative behavior will intensify upon “punishment”. The infraction will be repeated not only by the initial instigator, but by his/her partner in crime...seemingly over and over and over again. It is as if they want to make sure that they know exactly what will happen EVERY time, so they create lots of opportunities for the correction to be enacted. VERY exhausting for us as parents, but worthwhile if you can stay the course.
Think about what a genuinely workable currency for punishment is right now for your twosome (e.g. loss of a favorite toy for a window of time, time out, loss of video privilege...whatever will make them genuinely feel the unpleasant brunt of their ill behavior) and then stick with it 100%. As you have already noted, you will probably need to endure a span of time under which your newly established “punishment” is put to the test of repeated implementation in order to confirm that “X” action earns “X” response.
Hopefully, with consistency and time, the twins will “learn”, and will at the very least reduce the occurence of the same infraction.
Unfortunately, as the twins mature, so do their tastes...and your workable “currency” may need to change...if the temptation to perform the offending act all the sudden now outweighs the discomfort of the correction. When we have had to modify our correction method due to changing tastes, we do sometimes experience a brief intensification of the offense....just to “test” the consistency of repercussions of crossing the boundary.
Hopefully, some bit of this diatribe is helpful. I’ll be rooting for you and hoping you have a set of rapid learners!
Please let me know how things go, and feel free to e-vent at any time!
Believe me, I know EXACTLY how you feel!
All the best-
Feel free to contact me with your experiences in twin potty-training, or with any twin parenting dilemnas you may have at http://www.twinsights.com. I hope to hear from you!