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Twins Fighting

Coping with Rivalry and Fighting Between Twins - Strategies for Parents

By

Twin Sibling Rivalry

2 year old fraternal twins, Trey and Lindy.

Photo reprinted with permission of Melanie.

Based on the comments on my site, twins fighting is a BIG problem for families with multiples. The day-in-day-out squabbles and spats make parents want to tear their hair out.

I have identical twin little girls that will be three soon. They cuddle and kiss a little bit, but mostly they bite, hit, smack and fight over everything. Even if they have the same toy, they each want what her sister has. -- Mindy

"I have B/G 22M old twins. The fighting is constantly, & my daughter bites my son so much, I think he is afraid of her!! I have tried time outs, spanking, bribing & nothing seems to work." -- Mom of b/g twins

"I have twin girls turning 5 in december …they used to fight at home but now the problem is at school ... although they are separated, play time is the same. If one play with other kids ... the second one gets jealous ... I have talked a lot with them but nothing is working….how do (you) separate two kids living in the same house!!?? They want to eat, drink, play, etc., the SAME…no matter where!!" -- f

"We have nine kids, the youngest being identical twin girls that are 2 1/2 years old. Our Oldest is 24, so we have lived through a lot lol but none of our other children ever hit each other, bit etc. The twins are so sweet and obviosly love each other but they are biting, pinching, hitting, throwing things at each other ... I am constanly re-directing and trying to discipline them for negative behavior and reward them for positive ….its exhausting! Sometimes I feel like I am not going to live through it ..." -- Julie

The relationship between twins and multiples is definitely complicated. On the one hand, they are blessed with built-in buddies. Yet they are also subject to constant comparison and competition. Just as in any relationship, there will be tender, loving moments, and times of dissension and disagreement.

The fighting between multiples can be particularly intense. Multiples tend to spend more time together than traditional siblings; they may share a room, have the same friends, and are usually in the same grade. They may even be in the same classroom. Without a birth order dynamic to establish natural boundaries, they have to work harder to gain privacy and identity.

For the most part, twins and mutiples probably enjoy being together, but there will also be times of tension. Often, it begins in toddlerhood, when young children lack the communication skills to express their feelings and desires, and instead lash out physically. They may bite or pull the hair of their co-multiple.

There are numerous strategies for managing conflict between multiples. What is effective for one family is less useful for another. But there are some basic guidelines that you can adapt and modify based on your multiples’ ages and circumstances.

One strategy is to employ neutrality. Avoid an impression of favoritism by utilizing neutral systems for establishing rules and guidelines within your family. For example, chore charts can identify and track each child’s responsibilities. Color-coding or labeling establishes ownership of possessions to reduce squabbles. Take turns by days of the week to designate priviliges or conduct schedules, for example, Twin A goes first on even days and Twin B goes first on odd days.

Acknowledge and validate feelings; condemn bad behavior, not the person. Communicate with your multiples to determine the feelings behind the behavior. Help them to work out an alternative behavior to accomplish their goals. “Were you jealous of your of your sister because she had a toy you wanted? It’s understandable to be jealous, but it is not okay to take the toy away from her. Instead, can you ask her if she will share it with you when she’s done?”

Set expectations of respect among family members; offer praise when it is exhibited, and discipline with appropriate consequences when it is violated.

Establish boundaries to provide opportunities for individual privacy and possessions.

Create a safe environment for healthy disagreement by listening to both parties and responding.

Utilize time-outs, both for kids and the objects of their disagreement. If they are fighting over a toy, put the toy in time out until they can work out an arrangement to play together or share it. Sometimes, squabbles originate simply because multiples need a break from each other. However, they can’t always articulate this need. Too much togetherness is tedious for anyone! When the fighting ramps up, split them up. Send them to separate corners or even separate rooms. Arrange separate play dates and spend one-on-one time with each child. Time out can be a tool and does not have to be a punishment.

Intervene minimally. Act as a mediator when necessary, but allow your multiples to resolve conflicts between themselves.

Keep perspective. This “two” shall pass. Sibling conflict is normal, and sometimes beneficial. Despite the aggravation it causes now, they will most likely grow up to be very close. And they’ll learn some negotiating skills along the way.

Finally, release your parental quest to keep everything fair and equal between your multiples. It’s an impossible quest, but a pattern that is very easy to fall into when parenting multiples. From the outset, you feel compelled to “do for one, do for the other.” While that may be reasonable when caring for newborns, it quickly becomes burdensome and unfairly presents your multiples with an expectation of entitlement. While you love them equally, life will not treat them equally. Children need to understand that there will be situaitons when one receives advantages over the other, but that the tables will turn in time.

Here are some thoughts on sibling rivalry from other guides on the About.com network:

“...as children learn to resolve their quarrels, they are gaining two important life skills – cooperation and compromise.” -- Amanda Rock, About.com’s Guide to Preschoolers (How to Stop Sibling Squabbles)

“Learning how to handle disputes with their brothers and sisters will help children grow into adults who are skilled at resolving differences and are better at managing relationships with others.” -- Katherine Lee, About.com’s Guide to School-Aged Children (Solutions for Sibling Rivalry and Fighting)

“Another strategy for dealing with sibling rivalry is to discuss the issue in a family meeting. Tell your children why you want them to get along with one another, and give each person in the family an opportunity to express his or her point of view. In addition, work together to create new rules or guidelines as needed to deal with the situations that most frequently lead to conflicts and disagreements.” -- Jennifer Wolf, About.com’s Guide to Single Parents (6 New Approaches to Sibling Rivalry: Unconventional Ways to End Sibling Rivalry in Your Home)
“Sibling Rivalry is a GOOD THING! A frustrating, pull-your-hair-out, make-you-want-to-scream thing, but definitely a good thing. Children learn sympathy, respect of others, how to deal with other personalities, how to measure their worth, and the obvious, how to argue.” -- Denise Witmer, About.com’s Guide to Parenting Teens (Focus on Sibling Rivalry)

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