Dear Faith, I’ve found your blog to be helpful, but I feel like my kids are too young for most of your advice and techniques. I have 15 month old twin boys, and lately they’ve been totally INSANE! They come out from naptime, and start pulling all the books off the shelves, everything out of the cupboards, breaking things, spilling thing, striping down naked so they can poop on the floor! They egg each other on, and usually hysterically laugh the whole time that they’re methodically destroying our home! I’ve tried disicplining them, explaining things to them, giving them time-out, and they think it’s hilarious! They just laugh like it’s a big joke. I don’t think they understand well enough for me to explain how I’m feeling, or why they’re naughty. I try to take them to the park every day to get out their energy, but sometimes I just can’t!! Please help me! I don’t want to resort to spanking or anything, but sometimes I feel like I might have to!
Thanks for writing, and huge hugs to you! That sounds completely maddening. At this age, you’re right…they’re not ready for many of my techniques yet. They have very little in the way of impulse control, but they’re fully mobile. It can be a tough time!
So instead of asking how you can make them understand they’re being naughty, try asking how can you set things up so they can do things that give them these same feelings of excitement in ways that are acceptable for you too. Take that wild energy, and instead of trying to damp it down, USE it. Ride it. Channel it in ways that are enjoyable for everyone, including you. Run races with them across your yard (or livingroom if you don’t have a yard). Pick them up and spin around until you’re dizzy, then pick up the other one and spin around the other way. Hold them with their legs around your waist and support their heads and hang them upside down for a few moments, then swing them up. They’ll probably want to do it again…and again…and again. Do ‘wheelbarrow walking’ with them, where you hold their feet and they walk along with their hands. Give them horsey-rides on your lap where they jog up and down, and then fall off. Roll them up in a blanket and roll them across the floor. At the beginning, these activities will just rev them up more and more. But soon enough, they’ll keep asking for more, but you’ll be able to tell that the edge has come off. They’re getting tired. Keep going for a bit longer. Then start to wind down your wild activities. Make them more and more gentle, and see how they react. If they try to ramp up the energy again, then ramp it back up for a few more minutes. If they’ve had enough, you’ll see a relaxing in them. Keep doing it, but more and more slowly and gently. Then give them each a big hug, and get a book and snuggle down into a cozy space with them. When you’re done, give them a kiss on the head and go about your business. Their play will be much more peaceful.
The trick to this is that you can’t just do it for two or three minutes, or it’s worse than doing nothing. If you have one kid, ten minutes is usually enough; with two it might be a bit longer (but probably not double). But your boys will LOVE it, and you’ll keep your house intact, and hopefully your sanity too. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
I would also suggest making your house as toddler-friendly as possible. Try emptying out a couple of low cupboards and putting in toys that they can pull out and put back in. And get child-locks for the rest of them. Put the books up higher, and keep toys on the bottom shelves. Put a latch on your fridge. You’ll be able to take this stuff off once that impulse-control starts to develop, but in the meantime, set yourself –and them– up for success so that they natural desires to tear everything apart doesn’t cause you to tear your hair out!
Warmly, ~Faith Collins