Having multiples brings exponential joy into the household. But what happens when you start to see competition between twins as they age? Understand where twin sibling rivalry comes from and how to prevent it.
What Causes Competition Between Twins?
Sibling rivalry isn’t novel to anyone who grew up with a brother or sister. But when it comes to twins, sibling squabbles are often a result of, well, being a twin. Though studies have shown that twins are born with a closeness unlike that of other siblings thanks to having shared a womb, once twins come into the world they often find (or consider) themselves in competition with each other for resources—and attention.
This competition is sometimes supported by the way parents talk about their twin children, often using comparing language: “Susie sleeps through the night, but Annie fusses after a few hours” or “Bobby is pulling himself up easily, but Tommy isn’t.” As this tends to continue throughout childhood, twins are more likely to feel stuck in competitive mode.
Signs of Twin Sibling Rivalry
Signs of twin sibling rivalry aren’t unlike the signs of sibling rivalry between children who aren’t multiples:
- Physical aggression, like hitting or pushing.
- Arguing—or gestures and sounds imitating arguing.
- Regressive behavior.
- Name calling
Some sibling rivalry is normal—even healthy.
How to Prevent Sibling Rivalry when Raising Twins
The key to preventing—or, if it’s already happening, minimizing—sibling rivalry between your twins is to treat them like individual children. It sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Here are some practical approaches for treating your twin little loves like unique kids:
- Spend time with both of them—separately. Though this can be challenging when they’re especially little and you’re still working on setting up feeding and sleeping routines it’s vital for creating a sense of security and closeness with each twin child individually.
- Recognize their differences via preferences. Just because you may talk about then as though they’re a monolithic being, your twins have different likes, dislikes, and preferences. When you see these, acknowledge them, whether it’s about books and toys, foods, or communication styles.
- Don’t create a narrative of opposites. While comparing your twin children, you might find it easy to define them as opposites—a common shortcut like lumping twins together. But this can be as problematic as treating twins as though they’re the same person.
- Treat them equally. Note that “equal” doesn’t mean “the same.” Here, we mean things like encouraging twins to take turns, ensuring one twin doesn’t get more at snack time than the other twin, and the like. Fairness is important for littles—it’s especially important for twin littles.
- Be understanding, but not the judge. Recognize when your twins are having conflict, listen to what they have to say and how they feel, but don’t play judge or jury. Encourage them to work it out themselves to the best of their ability for their age. If they’re too young for that, remove the object over which they’re having a conflict or, if possible, separate them physically for a while to distract them and let them cool down.
Sibling rivalry isn’t likely to go away completely but minimizing how often it happens may be important for your family if things start to become disruptive.