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'Help! My Twins Are Monsters!'

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Dear Catherine,

I have boy/girl twins that just turned 2 and they don't listen at all. No means "yes" to them, and they seem to think that they can always get what they want. Overall, they are just monsters! I need advice on how to have calmer, more well-behaved children. They ALWAYS do the opposite of what I ask and they have no patience. They also back talk, throw everything, hit everyone including our pets. I am a young mom—I'm 22—and I just want to be able to take my kids with me places and not be embarrassed by their behavior. Please help!!

Thanks,

Up a Creek

Dear Ms. Creek,

Lady—you need help. And also, I feel you. We all do.

Meanwhile, I imagine that your friends try to make you feel better by suggesting this is a stage, and your babies are just in the midst of "The Terrible Twos."

Don’t listen.

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I used to tell myself that when my daughter was a toddler who made sport out of defying me. I was terrified to discipline her and risk one of her epic meltdowns (and really, they were all epic) and losing her favor. That is, until I discovered that there’s no such thing as "The Terrible Twos" in France. Can you believe that? C’est vrai. After this revelation I told my little daughter that, for a while, we were going to pretend like we lived in France. She was utterly confused, but I was determined. And this is when I truly embraced my inner Chief.

“I am the Chief.” Repeat that over and over. Seriously, say it out loud so that your kids hear you. I think you all could use a little convincing.

Of course, this isn’t France, so you may not want to completely exorcize that mischievous glint from the eyes of your twins. That fire may lead one of them to invent the next Google. Or Quora. Hipmunk? (That’s a real name, by the way.) Also, there has got to be something to the madness of 2-year-olds, just maybe not to the extent that we let them get away with here on American soil. Two-year-olds—and, sorry to report, 3-year-olds—are a special breed of maniac.

In any event, I do know that you can transform those monsters into minxes (I think that’s better) with a little backbone.

As for the back talk, throwing and hitting—these things cannot be tolerated.

First, however, start with your surroundings. You’ve expressed a desperate desire for “calmer” children, and this may be helped by mellowing their environment. I discovered that when I relaxed things at home (not talking about my inner Chief, mind you), like our after-school schedule, my daughter relaxed. I thought that by keeping her busy and stimulated, she’d have a better chance of being sufficiently satisfied and sleepy at the end of the day. In retrospect, I think I was stringing her out. It took awhile, but by weaning her of all the constant entertainment, she developed a calmer pace. For a kid who’d grown accustomed to me heeding to her every squeak with an exciting suggestion, this took some work.

As for the back talk, throwing and hitting—these things cannot be tolerated. I was so surprised at how much my kids responded when I said, “I am the Chief, and I say you cannot do that.” None of us realized I had it in me. When they persisted with questionable behavior, there had to be consequences. No waffling. Anything projectile (unauthorized) would be taken away and my girl would be placed in her room. I even dispensed with the warnings. She soon understood, no doubt because I oft repeated it to her, calmly but firmly, that a child who throws things cannot be around other people. Same goes for kids who are whiney, rude and violent. It’s fantastic.

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Soon enough (not immediately—I’ve not forgotten that your twins just turned 2), you will have kids whom you can take everywhere. I promise you that it gets easier. In France, age 7 is known as the Age of Reason. It sounds a long way off, but it happens really, disturbingly fast. This past weekend we had a dinner party, and my 6-year-old really wanted to stay up and eat with the adults. As is now the law in our house, I granted her permission if she could be cool. Dinner wasn't served until 8:30 p.m., and it was a slab of fish with a side salad at that. I had to pinch myself when I realized that my daughter was sitting, eating, not complaining. She’s not even at that magic age of 7, yet she decided that, after the fish (the fish!) she was tired and would go to bed ... before dessert.

Dreams do come true.

Go get 'em, Chief!

–Catherine

Have a French (or any nationality) parenting question for Catherine? Email her at mommecs@bermanbraun.com.

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