Thursday, October 08, 2009

Why age 3 is easier than age 2 for us

I strongly believe in the research presented in the Ames' series of child development books (Your 1 Year Old, Your 2 Year Old, etc). One of their fundamental findings is children go through equilibrium phases and disequilibrium phases. In disequilibrium phases, children go through developmental leaps that result in difficult behavior. In equilibrium phases, they are so delightful you convince yourself you want more children. For most kids, equilibrium phases peak around their birthday and disequilibrium phases peak at their half-birthday.

My boys have followed this pattern. Alex was very trying at 18 months, with his massive sleep regression and hour-long tantrums. His disequilibrium phase lasted from 15-21 months. Nate was very (OMG VERY!) trying at 2.5 with his complete defiance and boundary testing. In his disequilibrium phase from 2.25-2.75, I was fairly convinced we could try to give him away and no one would take him. And while their twin was also going through a disequilibrium phase, there was always one who took it to the next level! [random Rob Huebel reference]

Everything (and I do mean everything) I've read says 3.5 is the disequilibrium phase to end all disequilibrium phases. Even Ames' 3 year old book says to GET READY. And guess what? The boys turn 3.5 next month and this phase is not really that bad. I'd take this phase over 1.5 or 2.5 any day.

When the boys were 2, we had to learn all about our discipline style. When they were 2.5, I felt like I spent more time being a referee than I did being a mother. This behavior carried over into school when they had a THREE MONTH biting streak where they bit each other on a regular basis. But all this insanity and rule testing was a good thing because Jon and I developed a solid set of House Rules. We learned what we can let slide. We learned how each boy responded to discipline, and how we reacted in various situations. We learned our own emotional limits.

Out of this, I turned into a mean mom. HA! I say mean, but I am not mean, I am strict. We have rules for a reason and we expect them to be followed. We don't have rules for no reason and we don't say "Because I said so." The boys get two chances to correct their behavior... to learn... and if they do not, they go to timeout in their room. Some of the "meaner" rules are that you must wash your hands, you must brush your teeth, you must wear a bike helmet. There have been many tears over these rules but they are non-negotiable.

So... as the age 3 has come upon us, we have a solid discipline plan that does not involve emotion. When I get overly emotional about their behavior, it's when I am not following my rules of discipline. Do they test us? HELL YES but it is nothing compared to what we went through when they were 2. Do they throw tantrums? HELL YES and they go straight up to timeout until they are done. Do they act terrible and trying? HELL YES but they know the rules. And the difference is, at 3 they are old enough to understand the rules. And at this point, there is very little they can show us that we haven't already seen.

Then you add in the most delightful development EVER... the constant playing together. They get into elaborate games with one another for extended periods of time. Jon and I went to a playground and actually got to sit for an hour chatting with each other. No getting up to make sure they wouldn't fall off something. No one running off the playground. No one pushing each other off some rocks. No one smacking the other on the head with a shovel. No diaper changing. Literally an hour with no interruptions. Only another twin parent would get how HUGE this is.

Sometimes I am at a loss on what to do with myself because the boys will be happily playing in the playroom together. After these crazy toddler years, I am so used to spending my time on alert in case something happens. I'm so used to getting food, refilling drinks, changing diapers, stopping fights, and running around that sometimes I can't believe how much calmer everything is now. I am quickly getting used to this newfound freedom.

I will make this official. Age 3 is when we are finally reaping the benefits of having twins. Age 3 is where I finally feel confident in my parenting. Age 3 is where all the work we have put into managing two kids is coming to harvest. Age 3 is my favorite age yet.



Joanna said...

Dude, you do realize that there are still 7 months of age 3 left, right? And, that a lot can change in 7 months, right?

I'm very glad that you are enjoying 3 so much. I really hope it continues. But, I'd suggest not letting your guard down too much. Just in case.

ElizabethEK said...

This is a great post. BUT..... you are dooming yourself!! You can't say things like this out loud. You know this!!!

By the way, I like how Joanna's comment ends with the name of your next child: Justin Case.

Nicole S. said...

Maybe because you have twins 3 (and 3.5) is easier?? Not sure what singleton moms have to say about 3. And I totally agree that you would think their understanding of the rules would make this age better than younger ages.

Hopefully we have the same luck at 3 - its a ways off but not too, too far!

Beth said...

So true, so true! It only gets better. Now 4 years and 3 months, my girls run off and play together as soon as we get home from any trip or activity or errand. They love to play in their kitchen set (same one as you have, as I discovered in your archives yesterday:) and do all kinds of crazy things with blocks and blankets and animals and their grocery carts. Some days, I get HOURS of this! Other days, I get fights and tantrums. But it is much less. The joy of twins is never-ending---just different at every stage. Enjoy it.

Bert Bell said...

Joanna, did you really have to burst her bubble? Did you? LOL Laura it just gets better and you will get better as a parent. Once they get out of this stage it is pretty much smooth sailing until they hit puberty, discover girls and start trying to stretch their wings by making the bigger decisions for themselves. Nope I don't have twins but I have survived one teenager and in my second term of mothering the final one. Boys are easier then girls in the teenage stage. Boys have less hormone rages to deal with and are easier to reason with! Enjoy this time while you have it! Hugs!

Beth said...

I'm finding the 3s to be pretty nice, too! I love the communication skills, the imaginative play, the growing independence. I love that everything I say is Truth and Wisdom. Mom knows all. I love the sense of humor, the understanding and comprehension that develops at this age.

But yes--we can't get complacent! :-) (Can't WAIT to see you guys tomorrow!)

Sadia said...

I so wish we lived within playdate distance! We have (as you've probably figured out) a very similar approach to parenting.

Timeouts as a punishment for tantrums aren't working for us any more. Instead, I help the girls calm down by "taking a break" (hey, it's a timeout in bed, whatever), and then discuss an appropriate consequence for their poor behaviour.

JenFen said...

I could have written your post, except that I don't have twins. I think that similar rules apply for moms with kids that are 1-2 years apart. Remember my post about how hard I found it to have a newborn and toddler? And that it is only recently that I feel I can reap the benefits of their age difference? Of course I didn't have TWO newborns at the same time or TWO toddlers at the same time and you know I think you deserve a special badge of honor for that. But now that Jadyn is able to follow the same rules as Jake, and YES I love that they understand more at 3 because it leaves much less of a grey area, things are much easier. They still test us, they still act out, they still bicker but they know the consequences and a majority of the time they are playing together so nicely, I am amazed at how much time I have to get other stuff done. So I guess my point is that while having twins surely carries its own unique set of challenges and rewards, I am finding that having two children also has its challenges and rewards. So all those moms out there with a combination of a newborn, infant, toddler and/or prschooler, hang in there. It is about to get SO much easier.

Sally said...

I can't wait until my twins get there. We are just entering 2 - "NO!" - and already I am daydreaming about sitting at the park without having to jump up. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

What A Card said...

I'm glad I never heard 3.5 was the worst. Because you're right, it was FAR easier than 1.5 or 2.5 (that was my personal worst!) All of the 3's were relatively wonderful, and thus far, the 4's are shaping up even better. So I think you're only gets better!

Goddess in Progress said...

I'm just heading into the thick of 2, of course, so what do I know? But from other 3-year-olds I've seen, I do really feel like you reap at 3 what you sow at 2. The parents who weren't "mean" at 2 had even more testing and defiance at 3.

Every age is challenging, and I suspect the upcoming 2.5 is going to kick my ass in a major way. But hearing things like this only serves as another kick in the pants to get my discipline strategy more solidified so that I can nip some growing behavior issues in the bud. Will they still try to push it at 3? Sure. But if you already have the expectations laid out, I think you're not fighting as much of an uphill battle.

Or so I'd like to hope. :-)

HeatherV said...

There is HOPE based on Joanna's comment that there is still more than half of age 3 left for us!

I tell myself everyday to think of Ben sweetly sleeping when he say, is ramming a Target shopping cart into a wall while I try to pay or steering someone else's cart away while we wait at the pharmacy.

Yes, we lucked out with him as a baby so we are so due for some grief while you deserve to drink wine by the tv while you listen to them play after your first two years. Ha! Ever seen or smelled a 10 year old boy. The best is yet to come!

Becky @ Our Sweet Peas said...

YAY! I hope that I find the same to be true.

We hit two and a half officially on Sunday but I have felt it for about a month or so. I agree this is definitely when Jared and I are having to nail down our discipline strategies and most importantly be consistent.

I recently realized that lately I have been lazy with discipline and decided Monday to buckle down with consistency. I cannot believe the difference I have seen. They are such happier boys when we stay on top of things.

Great post!!

jungletwins said...

Awesome post! The equilibrium phases and disequilibrium phases make so much sense- I had never thought of it that way. I'm excited for 2 and 3, though I'm sure it will be quite a challenge.

Stacey said...

Must be nice...

Lee Anne said...

OMG I am SO very happy you wrote this post! My twins are in the thick of 2.5 and I have been having some major rough days around here. It is wonderful to hear that others have gone through it, survived and there is a light at the end of our tunnel and not just a train coming the other way!

Would love to know any books or anything you can recommend on discipline. The time outs are just not nearly as effective for us these days. And actually on one of them it never has been come to think of it.

Glad to hear you are loving age 3 and I am counting the months down until we are there. Also glad you mentioned the equilibrium phases and disequilibrium phases. Thanks!

mames said...

how absolutely awesome for you. i loved reading this post. and i totally love the way you have parented them and hope that we have some of the same experience.

2.5 is pretty gnarly, in part because i have been pulled in so many directions lately. i know we have to hold the course and enjoy what we can when we can, but it helps to know 3 might just not be the nightmare others love to report.