Toddlers have a bottomless tank of energy, an unrelenting thirst for knowledge, and a dramatic desire to assert their independence. These fascinating qualities make parenting a toddler both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Many families add dynamic to the situation by having children close in age, therefor creating an environment with multiple children in the toddler stage. Some parents find multiple toddlers easy to manage, in part because there is an automatic playmate. Others are very overwhelmed in this phase and feel tremendous stress in managing the nuances of toddler world times two.
Every family has to establish a routine that works well for them, taking into consideration working parents, childcare, preschool, etc. Most importantly, whatever your family routine make sure to be consistent. Toddlers thrive on predictability and knowing what is expected makes navigating the day-to-day that much easier. Furthermore, the following tips can be considered:
1. Take advantage of the situation to foster and promote independence. Toddlers demand a lot of attention and their budding skills make many day-to-day tasks challenging. With multiple toddlers it is almost impossible to divide your efforts equally at every moment, and a healthier approach is to find occasion for each toddler to assert some independence in the right moment. Trying to head out the door? Encourage an older toddler to put his/her shoes on independently while you dressed the younger. This will help the older toddler work on focus (attending to a task) and the motor skills required to self-dress. Need to zip the older toddlers coat? Ask the younger toddler to bring you an item (i.e. their shoes). This will promote an opportunity for the younger toddler to focus on following one-step directions.
2. Celebrate and respect each child's differences. Children are individuals and it is surprising just how different siblings can be despite coming from the same gene pool. Everything from temperament to disposition can vary between children in the same family. It is important to foster an environment where everyone follows the same rules yet the opportunity for individuality exists. An example can be found at the dinner table, where one child may have learned basic table manners earlier than another child. Rather than compare the two children, think about how each child learns the particular skill or behavior you want emphasized. Is modeling the best strategy? Reinforcing positive behavior (emphasizing the moments you catch the child doing the right thing)? Or does the child need a clear goal (i.e. staying in your seat at the table earns a sticker)? Tailoring your parenting approach to each toddler will help with your larger goal of learning a particular behavior or skill.
3. Maintain consistent guidelines, even when it might seem easier not to. Often times parents establish household guidelines with the first child and then relax or adjust those same rules as the family grows. Some argue it is easier to have everyone follow the same rules; however, we would contend that it is important to teach the appropriateness of different rules. Take screen time for example. An older toddler (2-3 years of age) may appropriately be able to watch one or two shows on a given day, whereas a younger toddler (say 15-18 months) may still be too young for the same privilege. While it may be easier to allow the younger toddler the same as his/her older sibling, setting the precedence that opportunities come with time is an important lesson for children to learn, even as toddlers. Find opportunities for the older child to participate in the activity without the younger sibling present (say during a nap time). This is one of the more difficult areas of managing multiple toddlers and there is not right or wrong when it comes to the rules that work best for your individual family.
Parenting two toddlers can be doubly rewarding as you observe your children form sibling relationships. There are sure to be plenty of times where things feel chaotic or out of control, and in these moments we encourage you to find the humor and embrace your inner toddler. Often you can diminish some parental angst if you try to view the situation from a toddler mindset.
What are your biggest challenges with parenting more than one toddler? What strategies have you developed to make everything run more smoothly?
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.
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