The social development of twins is absolutely amazing. Even though my twins were born seven weeks early, they have surpassed the social expectations of other toddlers their age held by both doctors and teachers. While they understand the concept of sharing, there is major sibling rivalry between the two of them for the attention of Mommy, Daddy and Grandma. Coping with it is not easy, since the toddler way to deal with rivalry is by throwing a tantrum or hitting the other.
I have had to teach the twins to share at a very early age. Even though one is a boy and the other is a girl, they both like to play with the same toys. If we give praise to Charlie, Catie immediately does something to try to get praise as well. It feels as though our praise for Catie belittles (for lack of a better term) the praise we just gave Charlie. However, it is important to remember that children this age do not understand the concept of belittling or upstaging. Both my husband and I are guilty of trying to explain why trying to steal the spotlight is wrong. Toddlers and pre-schoolers can’t grasp that. It is best just to give praise where praise is due, regardless of when the action occurs. If the child sees that praise is equally shared, there will be less jealousy.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that even though they are twins, they may not share the same strengths and/or weaknesses. Charlie runs very fast, while Catie is a bit slower. Charlie loves having running races because he always wins. Even though Catie comes in second, we always cheer for her. By setting the example of encouraging Catie to run as fast as she can, Charlie cheers for her, too. This seems to break down the athletic rivalry, as Charlie wants to finish the race faster so that he can cheer for Catie. Catie doesn’t mind finishing last, because she has her brother cheering for her. If there is a sibling rivalry where we notice that one twin is much better than the other, we still encourage both to compete… But we encourage the one that is better to cheer for the other even more.
The rivalry for attention is the most difficult to deal with. Since my twins are the same age, they can’t understand why our attention has to be shared. We do our best to play together as a family as much as possible. Other times, we take the time to spend individual time with each twin. My husband will take Catie to the grocery store while I stay home and play trains with Charlie. Once a month, I take each of them out on a “Mommy’s Day”, where it is just me and one twin while the other stays home to spend time with Daddy or Grandma. It is important that we show them that our attention can be shared as well as focused.
As parents of twins, we know that there is going to be even more sibling rivalry in the future. We want our kids to have a terrific relationship with each other. They will (hopefully) always be there for each other. While rivalry is certainly healthy, we want to make sure that they don’t get carried away like so many siblings do. There is nothing wrong with competition. It is even better to be able to nurture and teach good sportsmanship starting at such a young age. Twins is a blessing for that, as long as they are parented correctly. Hopefully, that is what my husband and I are doing.