Children don’t come with instruction manuals and even though there are some wonderful books available providing hints and tips for successful parenting multiples, these hints and tips are missing the emotion that also occurs around a child’s challenging behaviour. It isn’t unusual to feel discouraged, realize you were not as patient as you might have been, or raised your voice to an “outside voice,” or even to contemplate resignation from the position of parent – some days are just like that! All parents get discouraged and wonder what the heck is going on with their own behaviour. Sometimes speaking with parents with children a little older than yours is really helpful and allows you to see a possible light at the end of the tunnel.
Raising multiples has challenges, not the least of which is having two, three or four children of the same age, which does not ensure a one-rule policy will work, or that each multiple will respond the same way to the household rules. Add to the mix the different sexes within the multiple set and things can be very bumpy indeed.
Here are some ideas and hints to help you with your parenting duties and hopefully make things run a little more smoothly in your household. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list……
Keep Calm and Carry On – If you think you are really going to lose your cool. Make sure the children are safe and step out of the room for a short while. Take a bathroom break or make yourself a cup of coffee. If the children are old enough to understand, indicate that you cannot talk about what is going on at the moment and you need to take a break and you will talk later. There is no rule that says you have to have all the answers immediately. Giving yourself a time out can be wise; get your act together and go back some time later for discussion and feedback.
The Same But Different – Do NOT compare the children to each other. It can be difficult enough for singletons to be compared to each other, maybe you’ve had that experience yourself as a child. Just because they have arrived in twos, threes, fours or more, they will not like the same thing at the same time, have the same interests, same abilities, creativities or skills. Don’t let anyone else compare them to each other either.
Another point here – do NOT constantly dress them alike. Big mistake, as the boundaries blur and they become a lump rather than distinct individuals. Ask yourself “Am I dressing them alike because I like the attention it brings to me?” If the answer is “Yes,” please carefully reconsider and think about the future for your children who will have to go it alone and who will be hindered by their reinforced presentation as a package rather than as their own person.
Mark my Words…. – There are conflicting thoughts on making you, as a parent, carry through and I have often read that once you’ve made a decision, don’t go back on it. Mostly I agree with following through with discipline, but I found as my children got older and were able to explain why such-and-such happened, I sometimes felt I needed to rethink the punishment. I had been making a decision from my perspective and with the explanation, it became clearer why the culprit (in my eyes) did what she did. The argument against reversing your decision is that the children will see you as “weak” and try to take advantage at every turn. For me each interaction needs to be assessed on its own merits and if there is a very good explanation, I have no problem with doing a flip with the punishment.
Joined at the Hip - Your multiples are NOT required to be together 24/7. Encourage them to each have their own friends, hobbies, likes and dislikes. They do not have to go everywhere together. Don’t go calling a parent who invites only one multiple to a party (that parent may not even be aware they are multiples – it is most likely not personal). Each child is a separate entity and needs to have the time and space to separate from their co-multiple and be free. In this way each can grow to enjoy their origins and also learn to fly on their own.