Twins can have sibling rivalry as much as siblings who are not twins. Read on to learn more about this problem and what can be done.
The Role of Parents
It is easy point out how your twins are different. Over time this can fuel rivalry. Think twice before you point out something negative. Think of their differences in positive terms, rather than letting negative labels become fixed. When you talk about them, use terms that describe traits, like one is a talker or one likes to watch people. As your children grow, you can change it up and point out a favorite color or sport. If you have identical twins, this may also help people to tell them apart.
Rivalry can come up even when parents do not comparing twins. As the mother of twin toddlers, Ann Marie sees it all the time.
"My twins first started trying to overpower the other when they learned that hitting each other would get a response from me. One twin would hit the other over the head, leading to two results: his brother would cry and I would give him attention by telling him 'no,'" she says.
"Another area of competition/rivalry occurred in the actual hands-on attention I give them," she says. "It's gotten to the point where if one twin gets hurt and starts heading toward me for comforting, the other twin will run just to make it to my arms first. I usually give the unhurt twin a little hug to let him know I love him, and then pick up the one who is hurt and cradle him while kissing his injured area."
Development and Health May Play a Role
Things like deficits in language and social skills can also foster competition. Maddie, a fraternal twin speaks fluently for a 2-year-old. Her brother Jimmy needs to repeat himself before others know what he is saying. He gets frustrated by this and hits his twin sister.
Twins are often born early, which may be one reason for a delay in their language skills. Even if the twins are not born early, language delays may happen just because there are two same-aged children in the house fighting for attention.
Sometimes health problems can also account for developmental factors.
"What may have accounted for less interaction from our daughter Lindsay was that she had a lot of ear infections, which we later learned caused hearing loss," says Leslie, the mother of teenage twin daughters. "When people asked them 'What did you girls do today?', Laura was the spokesperson. Lindsay let her do the talking. We thought it was personality differences, but when Lindsay had tubes put in her ears, we saw her personality blossom. It turned out she had plenty to say!"
Some Positive Steps
It can be hard to remember that twins are their own people. They want to be seen as individuals.
Leslie suggests these tips:
Pay attention to preferences. Leslie says that she and her husband would ask questions about to their daughters' interests.
"We'd say things like 'Is this your favorite book, Lindsay?' or 'Laura, you really like the color green, don't you?'"
Make time for each child. "We spent separate time with each child and encouraged separate time for each of them with their older sister and their grandparents. We shared their differences with their grandparents, which made it much easier when it came time to spend overnights or buy the twins gifts."
Make your own decisions about whether your twins should be in the same class or do the same activities.
No one school fits all twins at all times. Young twins benefit from starting school in the same class. There, with their co-twin, they can learn to separate by doing different activities with other children. When twins are parted before they have learned independence, they may feel grief or anxiety and be unable to focus.
Ann Marie found that putting her children in separate classes worked out really well for them.
"Our children started in separate kindergarten classes and have stayed in separate classes throughout school. This was very good for them. They look alike, so outside of school they were often called the wrong name. In school, their teachers and classmates knew them as individuals and no one forgot who they were."
"Listen to your kids," says Ann Marie. "Their actions and their words will tell you what they like, what they don't like, what they are good at and what they need help with. Do not push the twins to be in classes together if they do not want to be. If they want to play the same sports, then great, but they do not have to."
As long as children are choosing activities that are of true interest to themselves (not just as a ploy to stay together), there is no need to worry. There are plenty of ways for each one to have different experiences. Honor their individuality by letting them choose.
American Pregnancy Association
Multiples of America
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Canadian Psychological Association
Multiple gestation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/multiple-gestation. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Raising identical twins. Twin Pregnancy and Beyond website. Available at: https://www.twin-pregnancy-and-beyond.com/raising-identical-twins.html. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Twin language uncovered. Twin Pregnancy and Beyond website. Available at: http://www.twin-pregnancy-and-beyond.com/twin-language.html. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/23/2021