Twin Escalation Syndrome

A Humorous Take On Multiple Mania

Twin Escalation Syndrome
Are your twins plagued with Twin Escalation Syndrome?. Seymour Hewitt / Getty Images

There's a condition that afflicts multiples. If you're a parent, you're all too aware of it. Although it's the children that exhibit the symptoms, it is usually the parents who are most victimized by its destructive effects. It may start as early as infancy, or may wait to rear its ugly head until the children are old enough to walk (run), talk (scream), or generally destroy everything in their path.

It's Twin Escalation Syndrome, the tendency of multiples to intensify and expand their behaviors in reaction to each other. For example, when Twin A cries, Twin B cries louder. In turn, Twin A cries even louder. And so on, and so on... Until the parents are crying the loudest of all.

Or, consider two school-aged twins. Their main passion in life is to amuse each other. At any normal mealtime, you'll find the following scenario: one twin slurps his milk to get his brother's attention. Not to be outdone, his brother blows bubbles into his cup. Twin One ups the ante by standing up in his chair to sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" while gargling his milk. Then when Twin Two stands in his chair to attempt an even more outrageous stunt, he falls and knocks his milk over. Twin One laughs uproariously until he snorts milk out of his nose. Mom and Dad shake their heads (and fists!) in frustration, victims yet again of TES.

Let's face it. Twin Escalation Syndrome is incurable. If you have twins, you have TES. If you have triplets, quadruplets, or higher order multiples, you have it really three, four or more times as bad. You can't get rid of it, but you can control it. Here are some measures that parents can take to reduce flare-ups and preserve family safety and sanity.


Your first line of defense is separation. TES can only take hold when two or more multiples are gathered together. Isolation is your antibiotic against TES.

If your family practices time-outs, utilize them when the escalation gets out of control. Designate a time-out location for each child, preferably in separate rooms. The general rule for time-out discipline is one minute per year of age.


Sometimes parents can diffuse a potential escalation situation with distraction. Depending on the age of the multiples, different techniques will be more effective. Offer young toddlers an alternative toy or fun activity. Engage older children in a conversation or enlist their help in a chore.

Reduce Competition

The root of TES is competition. Multiples constantly compete for resources, attention and approval. Meeting their simultaneous needs is a huge challenge for parents of twins, triplets or more.

There are ways that parents can diminish the competition. Provide ample one-on-one time with each child.

Designate priorities so that each child feels confident he/she will have a turn. For example, when twins are both talking at once, say, "I'm listening to your sister right now. I will listen to you in just a moment. Please don't shout over each other."

Remain Calm

Parents can exhibit symptoms, too. Don't be drawn into an escalation. When TES causes a situation to get out of control, remain calm. Count to ten (or twenty). Walk out of the room and take a deep breath, if necessary. Remember, this "two" shall pass.

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