Limit setting with twins


A large proportion of the telephone calls we answer at the Twinline come from parents struggling with "limit setting," or discipline. Their questions usually relate to three general situations:

  • I say "no" to my twins and they keep on doing whatever it is they were doing.
  • I tell my kids to do something and they say "no."
  • My twins are hitting/biting/pushing, pulling hair, and/or grabbing toys from each other.

These typical scenarios are often made more dramatic by an accompanying temper tantrum, especially when a parent must take a knife, porcelain vase or TV remote control away from the eager explorers.

Limit setting is another name for the continuous task (often better described as battle!) of protecting your children from danger, your possessions from destruction, and keeping your twins' behavior within the bounds of modern civilization. Children need limits in order to feel safe and be safe in the world around them (sometimes to keep the world safe from them!), and in order to feel safe with their own uncontrollable emotions and behavior.

The need for physical safety is obvious, though it may be very hard to actually assure it. We put up safety gates, lock away chemicals and medicines, hold our twins' hands when we walk down the street. Emotional safety is harder to perceive and, often, harder to provide. Young children, especially in the toddler years, experience their emotions very intensely: their joy is unbounded, their rage is fearsome! They themselves can get very frightened by the intensity and explosiveness of their feelings. They need adults to set limits regarding how to express these emotions, and to keep them from hurting others (their co-twin is an especially likely candidate) or themselves when they are overwhelmed by anger and frustration.

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