I have been meaning to come back on and say thank you! These tips were really helpful, especially Showofhands and Fivehourssleep. I have employed the tactic of saying (for example) 'right, do you want your nappy changed here or over there?' And they are responding to it!!
I feel as though a little mystery has been unlocked and that really helps. Thanks.
The one most important principle is that if you have decided something is going to happen, stay clear and consistent and never waver to avoid histrionics.
You have to get through the tears and tantrums at some point and it is easier to do it as this age than when they are teenagers.
I have a friend who gave in to avoid tantrums when her DS was a toddler. Now he's 10 and he's beginning to rule the whole house. She's desperate to regain control but doesn't know how to start because he is almost as big as her and can cause terrible damage when she crosses him.
I don't have any rules. But there are unspoken baselines which as a family we respect. So we don't raise our voices to each other, no physical violence, no bad language, no backchatting, no leaving a mess for somebody else to deal with, no climbing on furniture etc. But they're never enforced as rules just the way we taught the dc to treat us/the house/each other.
Being careful of the language you use might make a difference. So instead of 'do you want a clean nappy?', try 'right, nappy time, can dt1 get the wipes, dt2 get the nappy and then who can get back here fastest. GO!' It might be a palaver but what you actually do is you make it clear that x is happening but couch it in terms where they're active, involved participants. Similarly when getting dressed, do you want this top or this top, not 'do you want to get dressed'. Putting on shoes, pretend to put the wrong shoes on the wrong child, ask 'do these shoes go on your ears or on your feet', pretend to put them on their ears. It just makes parenting an enjoyable, interactive and fun experience but you're making it clear that certain things happen at certain times and it's not optional. Options come within that.
I find that children respond quite well to knowing what's happening and what is about to happen. Try putting yourself into their minds. Say they're on a swing and happy as anything, no concept of time, feel like they're flying, suddenly you stop them and it's 'home time now'. Huh? What? Eh? You could have a chocolate mountain and Mr Tumble himself atop it at home, but at that moment in time, you can't expect a toddler to justify the end of the swing time to themselves in any terms and they react only to the sudden change. So instead, five minutes to home time, you start framing it in terms which do make sense. So, dd/ds, it's nearly time to say goodbye to the park but we have time for two more things and then back in the puschair. Slide or roundabout? Good, now time for one more thing and then we're going to race to the pushchair. Okay, last go on the slide and then who can pick a daisy/stick/leaf up on the way to the pushchair and then we'll talk about the daisy/stick/leaf on the way home. Constant management of expectations. It does work and couple with praise it's v effective. So 'brilliant last go on the slide, you went sooooooo fast, I bet you're going to find a great stick, maybe like stick man himself, oh look how quickly you're climbing into your pushchair, tell me about your stick' etc. Of course you sound like a prize nob to everybody else but it just might mean you have happy children not banshees as you've managed the situation.
In terms of staying by you when out then that's up to you. If it's a busy place, then you have to enforce it in whatever way suits but you can also work on teaching them proper road sense, hand holding, sensible walking and do it by involving, talking, making it fun (silly walks, counting, spotting things etc) but always reinforcing how you should do it and praising them when they do.
Give them choices which incorporate your wishes 'Time to change your nappy, shall we do it here or there?' Make sure you ask firmly and not too loudly, turn off TV or other screens before you ask. Be open to alternatives. Don't be too rigid and pick your battles. I haven't got twins but have had 4 kids 6 years apart so have had two in nappies at various times, I found concentrating on one at a time helps. If they won't walk nicely holding hands, make sure they are in a buggy or get them a little life backpack each and use those to keep them safe. Tantrums will happen, don't be afraid of them. They are normal and those glances you get are probably sympathy, not judgement.
I've got 25-month old twins (b/g) and my H recently walked out so I'm managing them alone (though he will stay a strong part of their lives). Being toddlers, they are adamant about how and when they want to do a lot of things, and as I work 4 days a week a lot of my interactions with them in the week are very task-orientated and completed with time pressure. Getting up and going to bed, dressing/undressing, washing, nappies, putting on coats etc.
Part of what worries me most about being a single parent is enforcing discipline because I feel very wishy washy about what my ground rules are.
I find myself phrasing everything as (e.g.) "Shall we change your nappy?" to which the obvious reply is "No!" and they clearly think it's great fun. So each request is repeated maybe a dozen times per child, and because there are two of them I find I constantly change tack and rather than focusing just on getting one ready in sequence I am switching back and forth between A and B if A refuses.
So I know I'm being played by them and not being very efficient. Please help me set some ground rules - what are your non-negotiables, and how many times do you ask something (or do you actually just tell them rather than asking?) before you treat it as time to get tough?
Also when out and about - things like holding my hand, not wandering on ahead etc so they stay safe - this is not only tricky with two to watch but also liable to lead to histrionics if I insist on something. I guess I worry too much about tears/acting up to be really disciplined even on something as important as safety. Can you help me with some strategies please?