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How to Survive 3-Year-Old​ Twins: A Behavior Guide

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“Watch out for the terrible twos!” they say.

“Twin toddlers are so challenging!” they say.

Anyone ever feel as if “they” don’t actually have children?

Two year olds are a BREEZE compared to the sass and attitude of a threenager.

And don’t even get me started on the emotional complexities of a four year old.

And when you have twins? Well, you have two tiny, stubborn people, fighting for independence, and demanding to have things exactly the way they want it.

And the way they want it usually is the opposite of what their twin wants.

You end up with three year old twins fighting.. both each other and you. All. Day. Long. Here’s what to do when your 3 year old twins go through behavior changes… and turn into threenagers.

3 year old twins behavior

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I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all attitude and fighting.

You can be intentional in your parenting and have control of your household and your children.

Yes, there will still be bad days and meltdowns.

There will still be days where nobody listens and your twins are straight up mean to each other.

But it shouldn’t be every day.

These days should be the exception rather than the norm. It is hard work, but it is possible, and I’ll give you some tips on how to get there!

Here is an overview of my very favorite toys for twins and/or siblings –> The Best Toys for Twins to Play With Together

The Best Things About 3 Year Old Twins

Before we get into how to tame your threenager twins (without crushing their spirits, of course), let’s talk about why 3 year olds act the way they do. It’s actually pretty cool.

Want to know something really neat? The imagination in children develops fully around age three. They can have imaginative play before then, but around age 3, it really takes off.

They go from playing pretend with their stuffed animals, to playing pretend themselves.

I used to teach early childhood music classes, and I did an activity with my three-yearold class, where we had essentially one giant game of pretend.

I’d start by pretending my phone was ringing and my neighbor, ‘Farmer John’ needed us to go back to his farm to help him with some farm chores.

The whole class of three year olds would pretend to get on a bus, and drive to the farm.

Once we were at the imaginary farm, we milked the cows and fed the chickens. We drank freshly squeezed lemonade and ate cookies fresh from the oven.

I could always tell with the children when they had gotten to that magical part in imagination land.

Looking at them, it was clear that they truly felt as if they were on that farm.

They weren’t just pretending. They were actually there!

3 year old twins behavior

This breakthrough in imagination also comes with newfound independence, individuality, and opinions.

These are all excellent qualities, right?

Right. Excellent qualities, that are hard to parent.

Knowing this and helping them develop their imagination is an essential tool. It can really help you when dealing with 3 year old behavior.

It is good that they want to do things for themselves… they just also need to understand that sometimes it’s out of their control.

It is good that they have strong opinions… they just also need to understand that they can’t always get what they want.

Tips for Parenting 3 Year Old Twins

1. Big Picture: How Do You Want to Parent?

It’s important to take a step back and envision how you want to raise your children.

What are your ultimate goals and vision for your child?

Make a list.

I want my children to be:

  • Kind
  • Brave
  • Includers
  • Happy
  • Emotionally healthy
  • Obedient
  • Responsible
3 year old twins behavior

2. Pick Your Battles

Once you have your list of things that are important to instill in your children, you can figure out which battles to pick.

What is truly important to you? What can’t you let go?

Example 1: my twins are fighting. Yeah, you know I’m going to pick that battle! I want my children to learn how to be kind. I’ll sit there with them, figure out the problem, and we’ll work together on a solution.

If it’s a firsttime offense and we can figure out a resolution together, the consequence will be that they have to do something nice to each other to make up for the fighting.

They usually give each other a big hug and some rubs and say “I love you, sister.”

I will also give them very clear expectations with what the consequence will be if they start fighting again.

If it’s a second-time offense, I follow through with the consequence.

They usually lose the privilege to play with whatever toys they were playing with.

3 year old twins behavior

Example 2: My girls love to be independent, and that sometimes can result in them having their pants on backwards or shoes on the wrong feet. I always tell them and offer to help fix it, but they insist that they did it correctly.

Guess what? I 0% care if their shoes are on the wrong feet.

If it’s uncomfortable, they can fix it. They’re three, it’s not like they’re going to be running a marathon.

My list of priorities doesn’t include having their shoes in the correct feet, so I let it go.

3. If You Pick a Battle, You Must Win It

Let’s stick with my 2nd example, of my twins putting their shoes on the wrong feet. It’s not a priority to me.

But obedience? Obedience is a huge priority.

If I tell my children to fix their shoes and they refuse, that’s a problem, because they aren’t listening to me.

Once you tell your children to do something, you’ve already picked the battle, and you have to win it, otherwise they are learning that they don’t have to obey you.

If you don’t want to pick the battle, don’t even tell them, or present it as a request.

“Your shoes are on the wrong feet, would you like me to help you fix them?” If they respond and say no, I’ll say “OK, let me know if you change your mind!”

You may also like –> 5 Secrets to Getting Kids to Listen the First Time

4. One on One Time

I truly believe that the key to having obedient, kind children starts with their hearts.

If they care about pleasing you, they have a reason to be obedient.

They value your opinion and trust your word.

Whenever we go through a phase of someone not listening, fighting more than usual, or anything like that, I try to find some time to spend with them one on one.

I try to really connect with them and fill up their love tank.

Related –> How to Show Your Child Love with the 5 Love Languages

It’s something we try to do on a regular basis, but let’s be real… life is busy, and with 3 kids, it can be easily forgotten about!

3 year old twins behavior

One on one times is especially important with twins, because they are in constant competition for parents attention.

Giving them that quality time weekly can help with fighting between twins and other behavioral issues.

Ideas for One on One Time

It doesn’t have to be something big or extravagant like a special dinner or trip to the zoo. Getting in the habit of doing simple things will really help.

  • Errands: If you have weekly errands that you run, you can alternate taking a twin each week. Obviously, there has to be someone available to watch the other twin haha.
  • Board games: Play a board game with just one twin (here is a list of my favorite board games for three-year-olds!)
  • Go for a walk: Josie loves going for walks and will frequently request to go on a walk with just mommy or daddy.
  • Books: Reading one on one is a great way to spend quality time with twins!

5. Get Rid of Their Toys

I don’t mean this in a drastic “you’re fighting so you’re losing your toys!”

Every time a fight breaks out in our house, it’s over a toy.

Having fewer toys will give them fewer things to fight over.

All twin parents know that you can have two of the exact same toy, and your twins will still fight over the same one. It’s a bit ridiculous.

Do a big purge and get rid of, or rotate out things that aren’t played with frequently.

3 year old twins behavior

6. Stay Strict with Sleep

Children all have different sleep needs, but most three-year-olds still need a nap.

This doesn’t mean that a three-year-old will take a nap every single day. In fact, it’s more common for them to skip their nap one or two days a week.

This isn’t a sign that they are ready to drop the nap.

If they are taking longer to fall asleep at night, you can shorten their nap.

You can expect for sleep issues to arise with three year old twins, especially if they share a room.

Starting around 3, the interaction between my girls skyrocketed.

They talk and play together constantly.

It’s really cute… except when they’re supposed to be sleeping!

We have a rule that they aren’t allowed to get out of bed once they are tucked in, and they actually follow that rule the majority of the time (we worked on it a LOT.)

But they talk and play with each other from their beds. They sing songs, their animals talk to each other, they ask each other questions, etc., etc., etc.

3 year old twin behavior

We solve these sleep problems two different ways:

  1. Discipline. If they do get out of bed, we take away their stuffed animals or special blankets. If they do it again, we separate them and put one of them in our guest room until they fall asleep.
  2. Wear them out: Make sure that they are getting adequate physical and mental stimulation. This is a great post that talks about the importance of mental stimulation for sleep.

Over the summer, I made sure to include both outdoor play and learning time into our daily routine.

The learning time was usually something simple such as coloring in letters or reading books about different animals or plants, but it was enough to make their brain work hard.

Now that they started preschool, they are so tired that they take a nap at 12:00 and fall right asleep!

Tip: Use an OK to Wake Clock

We use an OK to Wake Clock that will turn green when our kids are allowed to get out of bed every morning.

When we start out using the clock, there is a learning curve. We use a sticker chart to reward them for staying in bed, and enforce consequences (losing special items or the loss of a privilege) for not staying in bed.

Give Them Appropriate Freedoms

90% of the time, I don’t care what my girls wear.

I don’t care if Josie is decked from head to toe in different shades of pink, or if Margo is wearing a flamingo shirt with unicorn pants.

But, sometimes I do care.

Sometimes I need to take a picture of them for a sponsored campaign on Instagram, or I have specific dresses picked out for them for holidays, picture day, or the like.

If I let my girls choose their own clothes 90%, they will fight me that 10% of the time that I need to choose.

It doesn’t matter if I tell them every day “today you can choose, but on Sunday when we go to church, I will choose your clothes!”

They will still throw a fit.

This is a sign that they have too many freedoms.

If children are given too many freedoms, they become ‘wise in their own eyes,’ or ‘too big for their britches.’

They won’t respect your authority because they think they are mature enough to make their own decisions.

On the flip side, if children are given too few freedoms, they will crave the ability to make their own choice.

It is crucial to find a good balance of how many freedoms your child can handle!

Freedoms should be treated as a privilege and not a right. If your child is acting as if it’s a right, that is a key that they don’t have the appropriate amount of freedoms!

I let Josie and Margo pick out their underwear and pajamas daily, and give them a choice of their shoes, hair bows. Occasionally, I will give them the choice between two t-shirts or two pairs of pants.

I find that giving two items and allowing them to choose is a freedom that they can handle while giving them unlimited options isn’t.

Start small and work your way up. A good middle balance with three-year-olds is to allow them to make a choice between two items.

You can then add in additional freedoms and see how they act.

For example, one day say “Today we are staying home and having a movie day and you can choose to wear whatever you want. Tomorrow, mommy gets to choose because you have preschool, but today, you can wear WHATEVER you want!”

If the following day they are totally content to let you choose, you know that it’s an appropriate freedom!

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns when it come to three year old twins and their behavior! I am happy to help!

P.S. Make sure you’re following me on social media to keep up with our family and all the twin cuteness! I am on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!

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Thursday 24th of June 2021

I do literally all of these except bedtime and it doesn't work. I have a feeling that it's because my twins are boys. I heard the boys are insufferable when they are younger, and the girls when older. Especially from parents of twins. I keep them entertained constantly. If I don't, less than a minute later they are into trouble. Even the television doesn't work for long anymore, and the television has never even been a thing they receive regularly. Even right now I've been telling them to clean their room. I can't lock them in their room because they figured out how to open the window. And right when I said that they ran downstairs (they can climb the baby gate so I don't bother). I tell them to go back up and see their window is open, so now I don't feel safe having them in their room at all without me. I'm in the room next door with their baby brother letting him play before bed. I have no where to contain them where they won't destroy. Everyday I wake up loathing the day ahead because their behavior completely destroyed any joy I get out of life. Their father is a narcissist and I have no friends so it's just me 90% of the time. Everyone always yelling at me for something. And they don't speak either, the MMR vaccine stole their voice. Making it so much harder. I'm at my wit's end. I love them more than anything (besides their baby brother whom I love equally) but I'm at a loss for what to do. I'm a joke to them. I was told boy twins were hard but wow. I'm blown away. I enjoy the little moments but they almost don't outweigh the bad. Almost. Lacking a loving supportive partner probably has a lot to do with it. Once the kids get to go to bed I get to hear how crappy of a human being I am from Mr. Hyde. Everyday is pain but it's a part of my spiritual journey. But I am human and sometimes when I feel a pain in my chest I almost wish I was dying. Almost. That way I'd be able to actually rest for the first time in over three years. And maybe when I did I'll find someone who actually loves me. Blah blah blah no one cares, just like the narc tells me.


Monday 31st of August 2020

I hate being a parent.

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