Q: My twin boys will be three years old next month. They sleep in the same room. Recently, they’ve taken to getting out of their beds (together, although one seems to be the ringleader) every night, over and over, for up to two hours. They make a lot of noise, then they giggle and run when I approach, and they “feed” off each other as they’re escaping. I’m not sure what to do. All I know is that what I’ve been doing isn’t working. Help!
A: They certainly have your number, don’t they? They get out of bed, make lots of boy noise, you come marching sternly down the hall, they run away laughing, you herd them back to bed, then you leave the room (making lots of empty threats, I’ll bet), and they start all over again. It sounds like great sport. Obviously, the problem is that they’re the ones having a great time. You definitely are not.
Unfortunately, you have become your own worst enemy. Your boys cast the bait, and being the dutiful fish that you are, you bite it. They get you on the hook, reel you in, and let you go. Then they cast the bait again, and you bite it again, and around and around the three of you go. You need to figure out a way for dealing with this that doesn’t involve you biting their bait. I’ll give you a couple of suggestions.
Just ignore them! If this sounds strange to you, I can virtually guarantee that the first time you try this strategy, the boys’ nightly fishing game will last no more than one hour if you do not respond. As it is, it’s lasting two hours! I’d be willing to bet that if you ignore this for two weeks, there won’t even be one hour of fishing per night. The problem will burn itself out. After all, what fun is there in getting out of bed and making lots of boy noise if Mom doesn’t come marching indignantly down the hall? Answer: not much. If you continue to march indignantly down the hall, I predict you will be marching indignantly down the hall six months from now. And somewhere along the line, you will become a basket case.
Gate them in. Buy a gate, or have your husband or a carpenter make one, or cut the kids’ door in two and re-hang the lower half or two-thirds (the taller the better so they can’t climb over it). Turn the lock around. Put them to bed, read them a story, kiss and cuddle, then leave, closing and locking the gate door behind you as you call out, “Have fun, boys!” I can assure you that being locked behind a half door with a twin brother in crime is not going to traumatize either of them. Let them boy noise themselves to sleep in the confines of their room.
If you follow these two suggestions, I predict that this boyishness will burn itself out in a couple of weeks. That’s much less time than it took you to break some of your husband’s bad habits, isn’t it? (All boys have bad habits because no matter how old we get, the boy in us lives on; and if it doesn’t, we become crashing bores.)I assure you, you can do this!
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 295-1751.