Q: My twin boys will be 3 years old next month. They sleep in the same room. They've recently 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 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've certainly got 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 into 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 they're having a great time, but you're not.
You have become your own worst enemy here. 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, let you go; then they cast the bait again, and you bite it, and around and around the three of you go. You need to figure out a way of dealing with this that doesn't involve you biting their bait. Do I really have to do this for you? Is this what I went to graduate school for?
OK (heavy sigh), I'll give you a couple of suggestions. Let's see I have it! Ignore them! I can virtually guarantee that this nightly fishing game will last no more than one hour if you do not respond. As it is, it's lasting two hours, right? Second, I'd be willing to bet that if you ignore this for two weeks, it will burn itself out. 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.
Suggestion Number Two: Gate them in. (I learned this old-fashioned method by taking Advanced Gating in psychology school.) Purchase a gate, or have your husband or a carpenter make one. Or, cut the kids' door in two and rehang the lower half or two-thirds. Turn the lock around. Put them to bed, read them a story, kiss and cuddle, then leave, closing and locking the "Dutch" door behind you as you call out, "Have fun, boys!" Being behind a locked half-door with your 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.
Third suggestion: If they stay in bed and go to sleep, take both of them to Disney World tomorrow to celebrate their accomplishment. Just kidding.
Whether you ignore them or gate them in, 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.) Sure it is. You can do this.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.