Sibling rivalry is a fact of life – ask any parent with more than one child and you will definitely hear episodes of sibling rivalry between their children. No parent would distinguish between their children or play favourites, but in spite of all this, there will be times when one child will accuse the parent of favouring the other instead of them. Bringing up twins is no different. From the time BB & GG were babies, we’ve been very scrupulous in making sure we make no distinction between the two. Even clothes, gifts, books and toys were brought for equal amounts. I used to be very particular that anything I brought for any of them had to be of almost equal cost, even if BB & GG were too young to know any better.
But, even when we were so particular about making sure they both didn’t fight much, we were unsuccessful there. GG was the more assertive one, growing up and BB used to give in to his sister most of the time.
From the time they were born, BB & GG have been compared, consciously or unconsciously, by everyone for every single thing they did – who turned first, who spoke the first word, who walked first, and so on and so forth! Even I used to subconsciously compare them in terms of milestones met, even when I didn’t consciously want to do it. When they went to kindergarten, in the initial months, they were in the same class and this continued even in school. Even after they were separated into different classes, both in pre-school as well as in primary school, teachers would try to compare their abilities, more because each was strong in a particular subject, which the other may be weak in. It was only when they reached secondary school and went to different schools (which was a tragedy initially and then turned into a blessing). In secondary school, GG has come out of her brother’s academic shadow and has blossomed, in both academics as well as in her CCA and has a leadership position in the school.
There are times when I tell them to something, for example, switch off their phone and do work, the immediate response would be “what about (the other person)? Has (BB/GG) switched off the phone? He/she is still using it”. It shows up at times when we tell them off for doing something wrong or when one is sulking while being scolded.
There are ways which a parent can manage sibling rivalry:
Make the children accountable for their actions. Even young children can be spoken to in the language they are comfortable with and shown how their actions (verbal or physical) affects their sibling. House rules should be put in place as early as possible and these should be revised as the children grow up which should, in turn, be used to make the children accountable.
Stop being a referee. When the children are very young, you can referee them, so that fights do not get physical. But as they grow older, stop being the referee. Set rules about physical touching and then unless they are about to hurt themselves, let them resolve their differences on their own. As part of this, make sure they know the consequences of their actions. Fighting may and will lead to the withdrawal of privileges – especially when dealing with teens – take away things that matter to them, like phones and laptops.
Let them talk it out. This one is a bit difficult, but if you can get the children to talk through why they have issues with their sibling, it may help nip the problem in the bud.
Have one-on-one time with each of the children. Children crave their parent’s time. This is more so for twins, as they have to compete with each other at every stage in their lives for their parent’s attention. Spend time with each of them separately and do something that is special for the child. This will make the child feel special and also increase the bond between the parent and the child.
These are some tips on how a parent can minimise sibling rivalry between their children. But at the end of the day, every child is unique, so use the tips that work for your child. Maybe one or more or even none work with them. If you have some other tips that work for your children, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.