Parents dream of bringing up happy, successful, confident, and well-behaved children. Reaching that goal is most rewarding but it is a tough journey. One of the biggest challenges I have with parenting at the moment is striking a balance between nurture and discipline. In many situations I find myself wondering whether my children’s behavior is normal for their age (Giggles and Cuddles are now four years old) or if I need to intervene and be strict about certain rules. Disciplining children is hard work in general, and having to discipline twins takes things to a totally different level.
Being nurturing and affectionate is extremely important, as children certainly need love, attention and support. Having a close, loving relationship with their parents helps children develop trust and learn how to handle difficult situations. Children also learn empathy as they see it modeled through their parents’ behavior. The problem, though, is to avoid “over-nurturing,” which may lead to over-protectiveness and becoming too involved in children’s lives. The danger here is that the children may become too dependent on the parents and even spoiled.
Discipline teaches children how to deal with disappointment and frustrations and they become less egocentric. With time they become more independent and self-sufficient. Having discipline also lays the foundation for important rules and values that will guide them later on in life. So discipline is very important. However, when parents are too strict with discipline, they run the risk of being too rigid and controlling, which could result in children rebelling against the rules, so such strict discipline could actually backfire.
The problem is that there are no obvious guidelines about when one should intervene, how, and how much. It depends on the situation and also on the child. Different characters need to be dealt with differently, and what works with one child may not work with the other. That is especially challenging for parents of twins, because twins often need to be disciplined at the same time but may need very different approaches. Furthermore, with twins there’s almost always something going on, and at any point one of the twins is likely to be misbehaving. You try to keep your calm and deal with the situation, and then a few minutes later the other twin starts acting up, so keeping your calm becomes a greater challenge.
Another problem is that twins feed off of each other’s behavior and find this amusing, so they just won’t listen to anything the parents say, or they compete even in misbehavior. What often works is just separating them until they calm down, and dealing with each one using the approach that works best.
There are many books and endless articles on issues of discipline and dealing with children in difficult situations at different stages of their upbringing. They are useful as general guidelines and sometimes offer an interesting perspective that one hadn’t thought of. Honestly, though, at the end of the day, I believe that parents know their children best. Parents know what works and what doesn’t, so they should mostly follow their instincts and do what comes naturally.
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has been working as a journalist and an illustrator. She has been illustrating for magazines, websites, charity and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and eight-year-old daughter.