My love for twins began a long time ago with my first twin nanny gig. First I had one twin nanny gig, then another, then another, etc. I have nannied for a lot of twins!
At first, I didn’t fully understand the severe overwhelming feeling that comes with having twins. I also had a lot more energy back then, so as a twin nanny. I just loved it! The days were busy, like crazy busy, but I am a routine and rule follower so keeping babies, toddlers and older kids on a schedule feels natural. To me, schedules came easy. But that is not the case with so many other aspects of raising or caring for, little ones.
As I look back now, I see that I was already honing my craft of being a mom and a sleep coach Some of the things I learned as a nanny are lessons that I have been able to utilize in lots of areas of my life.
Here is an example of something I learned. Like all my advice, take what you can use, leave the rest… and Trust Yourself!
SCHEDULES (Aka The Power of Planning)
There is already so much guesswork involved when caring for young and non-verbal kids, why not try to prevent the frustration for everyone involved?
Schedules are all about prevention. In most situations, prevention is definitely better than fixing a problem. Prevention helps to lessen the risk of your child becoming overtired, over-hungry, or overwhelmed, and then having unnecessary frustration.
Prevention means planning. To prevent things from getting too chaotic you have to plan ahead. Sometimes this planning is just mental like deciding before you go into the kitchen what you will be making for a snack. Sometimes it is physical like packing the diaper bag in the morning for the afternoon park outing. Taking the time to jot down ideas for the week (meals, outings, activities, etc) can help you plan and prepare.
Nap times are great for that.
If you have a house full of kids or twins, then schedules are such a big help.
What can you schedule? Anything you want! A schedule can be as simple as the order in which you do things. Or it can be complicated.
Baby wakes. First I change, then play, then feed.
After naptime we always cuddle, then snack, then go for a walk.
From 1pm to 2 pm we do activity X. At 2pm we do activity Y. At 4pm we have 20 minutes of quiet time.
Whatever works for you and your family is the best schedule for your family.
And don’t get frustrated. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right schedule… and remember your schedules will have to change as your kiddo(s) grow and have different needs.
Schedules cannot be overly strict because life happens, and kids happen. Having some wiggle room must always be part of your schedule. In fact, occasionally changing things up can be very exciting to young kids. That is why most children will just love occasionally breakfast for dinner or pajama day.
So what’s the best way to make sure a schedule works?
CONSISTENCY (The Unsung Hero of Both Schedules and Learning!)
Sticking to a predictable routine offers young children security. Their brains actually function better when life is predictable and secure. If your child gets used to knowing that after a nap there is a snack, or after quiet time there is outdoor play, it can make the transitions easier and help them have signposts for their day. Remember, the fear of the unknown is a universal and powerful fear. Your child is not a mind reader. Knowing what to expect in their lives can make the difference between a happy kid and a tense anxious kid.
So consistency in schedules is a must, and guess what? It is the same for parenting.
When a toddler is doing what a toddler does, by testing you and pushing boundaries, then it is also important to be consistent with your responses. Do you have to respond the same way a million times? Yes! Is it frustrating? Yes! However, that’s where the learning occurs. We can sometimes instantly stop an undesirable behavior in various ways, but they may not learn anything. In fact, it’ll only cause more confusion which will lead to more testing.
Here’s an example of a light bulb moment for me.
I had a short-term gig caring for a toddler. The parents couldn’t get her to cooperate at all. When it was time to get dressed or to get her coat on, she ran around the house and they ran after her. I stood there like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do. Somedays she was caught and tickled. On other days she was bribed with candy. On other days she was spanked. Finally, after whatever method worked, she was handed over to me so I could take her out to the park. I felt completely confused by the parents. I didn’t know from one day to the next how things were going to be handled and I was 25. This little one was only 2.5 years old, no wonder she was “all over the place,” both physically and emotionally. Like me, she had no idea what to expect from her parents… candy or a spanking for the same behavior. We would never treat other adults that way… can you even imagine the sense of anxiety you would feel if you never knew one day to the next how your loved ones would react to you? How stressful! And when kids are stressed and confused, they act out because they are seeking validation, support, and … you guessed, consistency!
Situations like this pop up all the time with toddlers. They test and push boundaries. It’s the same regarding sleep. If your toddler is stalling bedtime or is prepared to battle naptime, then consistency is key. Sometimes whatever they are fighting isn’t about sleep at all. They may not want to be separated from you. They may be confused, for example: if you let them skip a nap some days and not others. If you bring them to your bed sometimes, but not others. If you allow a bottle after saying no a bunch of times. Then it is only natural that they will push back. In these situations, things may get worse before they get better. Your toddler really needs to know that you will follow through with what you say… which means you have to actually follow through 100% of the time. That is how trust is built.
If sticking with schedules and consistency is not for you then just ask yourself is it worth it? Some kids can go with the flow easier than others. Chances are though that if you have multiple kids or multiples, not all of them will be able to handle whatever happens on the spur of the moment.