Even if they’re identical, twins are still individuals, and just because they’re twins doesn’t mean they’re immune to sibling rivalry. In some ways, it might be even tougher for twins to avoid competition, because people tend to compare them to one another, especially if they are identical. Instead of Johnny and Joey, they may feel that people see them as “JohnnyandJoey.” Competition is a way to develop their individuality and to emphasize their differences.
Sibling rivalry is normal. Your twins will compete for food, toys, space and you. They are also quite likely to hate each other one minute and be shoulder to shoulder against the world the next. Toddlers are also in the first stages of independence – which is one reason they’re so fond of “no” – and often more than a little protective of their own stuff. Twin toddlers have a double dose of both sibling rivalry and the need for independence at the same time.
Hands Off, Mom
Unless there are flat-out fisticuffs, biting or hitting, sometimes the best thing to do is let them hash it out. Kids of this age are learning how to relate to other people and they need the practice. Obviously, you should step in if one or the other becomes aggressive or if the argument is clearly escalating out of control. But it’s pretty common for toddlers to be yelling at each other one minute and playing contentedly the next. Lay down clear rules – hands to yourself, no biting and so on. Stay close, but don’t intervene unless it’s absolutely necessary.
One possible way to decrease competition is to focus on their differences. Resist the urge to dress them alike. If Johnny wants to wear purple-polka-dotted pants while Joey prefers green and yellow stripes, encourage their budding fashion sense. Call them by name rather than always saying “the twins.” Ideally, names that are different instead of rhyming or sounding alike might be the best choice, but by the time they get to the competitive stage, it’s too late for a name change.
Although it might be the last thing you want to do after a day when your offspring have been playing “push-me-pull-you” with you and each other, spending some time alone with each is a way to help them feel special. Your undivided attention – which is something twins often get less of simply because there are two of them – can make them feel less compelled to demand you divide your attention between them. It can be particularly effective if you spend the time with Johnny doing something only he enjoys. This sort of parental attention is so important that if you’re a single parent, it’s worth it to engage a sitter or bribe a grandparent to watch over the second twin.