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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Understanding Twin Sibling Rivalry
Understanding Twin Sibling Rivalry

Competition among siblings is part of normal family life and twins are no exception. In fact, most will admit to being very competitive and it may start as who gets the toy first but as they grow this can extend to school, sports, work, romance and anything else you can think of!

Twins share a great bond, but when you're a young twin its one thing to share a womb or a birthday but quite another to share a toy. When my friends had children, the first words their kids would say was either mummy or daddy, says Clare, a mother of twins, when my twins started talking, the first word they each said was mine!

Conflict from sibling rivalry occurs as twin children compete for dominance, parental attention and independence. The fight may start over who gets the toy or who gets the best seat in the car but this is often a smoke screen for underlying issues such as feelings of jealousy, anger or insecurity.

It can be hard for younger twins to understand these feelings and often the fight becomes a test to see who deserves to be firstwhos stronger, smarter, better or more loved. Equally, parents find it hard to understand why their twins constantly bicker, tease and provoke each other rather than just get along and be friends.

So who needs all this hassle anyway? Well, the children do! Sibling rivalry is actually a GOOD THING! It may be a frustrating, pull-your-hair-out, make-you-want-to-scream kind of thing, but definitely a good thing.

Fighting is not a sign of children not getting along, its how they get along. Conflicts are used to test power, establish individual identity and vent emotion with a familiar family adversary this is safe conflict and will teach them many life lessons like how to handle other personalities, respect of others, sympathy, how to measure their worth and of course, how to argue!

Steps to Success


The first step to minimize fighting is to determine what the fight is about. Its best to address feelings of rivalry before they erupt. Gently coax children to talk about feelings. Take the lead and talk about feelings of anger or insecurity you have experienced. Try not to judge feelings.


Being sympathetic to a child's feelings does not mean it is okay to allow unacceptable behaviour. Set limits by clearly identifying the kinds of behaviours you won't permit. For example, explain that physical aggression wont be tolerated. Follow through with action. Use a time-out chair or temporarily deprive a child of a toy or activity he/she likes. This method is effective in changing unacceptable behaviours.


Children yearn for attention from their parents. They each want to be appreciated for who they are. They crave special time alone with their parents. Twins often fight when this special time with a parent is missing from their lives. In other words, twins may be fighting with each other, but what theyre really vying for is attention from the adults they love. Fortunately these needs can be accommodated even in the busiest households. Many families institute a ritual called fun night. Once a week each parent spends time alone with one child. The next week they switch. Not only does this activity help minimize sibling rivalry; it helps parents develop a close relationship with each child.


A good way to encourage compatible behaviour between twins is by rewarding them for cooperative play. When you compare behaviour and make remarks such as: See how nicely your sister is playing? Why can't you play like that? causes tremendous feelings of anger and jealousy and will only pit the children against each other. On the other hand, how many times do we see children playing cooperatively together and ignore them? Express your pleasure by telling your twins how proud you are that they can play together so nicely.


Encourage a good relationship by creating fun activities that require each child to interact cooperatively. If the multiples help you make cookies, have one child roll out the dough while the other cuts the shapes. If all goes well, reward the kids by letting them eat some of the cookies.


Kids learn what they see. The best way to minimize fighting is to model behaviour you want your children to adopt. Most parents dont like to admit that they fight in front of their children, but it does happen sometimes. Parents can use a minor disagreement to teach their children by modelling negotiating behaviour for your children. Teach them to express their unhappy feelings, to communicate their needs. Show them how people compromise. Remember, all twins fight at one time or another. Twins can use their unique relationship to safely work out frustration and anger. A parent shouldn't always intervene but let the children work out problems for themselves when possible.


A close bond with other people can lengthen your life and twins prove its true! A study of 26,974 male twins looked at how their relationship affected their health. Twins who had regular contact lived longer and identical twins led the healthier lifestyles!

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