In my last post, I discussed the twin bond and whether it was truly unbreakable. After countless interviews with adult twins, my conclusion is that it’s not unbreakable. Like any important relationship, the twin bond needs to be developed, nurtured, and maintained. Parents of twins can help their twin children grow and preserve a healthy bond. Here’s how:
Teach Good Friendship Behavior, and Start Early!
Did one of your children help the other up when she tripped and fell? Did your children show skill in taking turns playing with a mutually desired toy? If so, bring attention to the good deed! Praise the child and be specific. Give a detailed description of what you observed, explain what was productive about the behavior, and remind your child to read the feedback of her sibling. Here’s a sample script:
“You had five cookies in your bag and your sister had none. You could see that she really wanted one so you gave her two of your cookies. You shared your snack and that was very kind. Did you see how happy it made her when you handed her those cookies? It feels good to share, right…?”
The use of positive reinforcement here will encourage your child to repeat the good friendship behavior — and, in turn, will reduce the occurrence of poor social behavior. But conflict will inevitably arise at some point and when it does…
Either Gently Guide them to Productive Conflict Resolution OR Stay Out of It — It Depends…
When my kids were toddlers and honing their biting, hitting, and hair-pulling combat skills, I often had to tear them apart. I would try to summarize what just took place, the emotions they were feeling, and the poor behaviors they exhibited. I tried to explain the proper way to manage the conflict (with words, usually!) with the hopes that they would learn how to behave better the next time. Often, the “next time” would reveal the same poor behaviors. It took multiple, repetitive explanations before good behavior overtook the bad. But it did work.
For older kids, parents often wisely step back and allow the kids to have the conflict and resolve it on their own. Even when those conflicts turned physical.
One set of parents of twins told me that they would allow their teenage twin sons to wrestle. The wrestling never resulted in serious injury and it seemed to be important for them to engage physically and connect that way. Once the physical contact was over, the very close twin friendship resumed. The parents realized that (a) their sons simply needed to be physical with one another; (b) it was a primal and basic way to air out aggression; and (c) it did not reduce their ability to resolve conflict with words. There were plenty of times when the boys would resolve conflict with productive dialogue so the parents allowed the twins, who remain very close in adulthood, to choose on their own which method of conflict resolution was most appropriate for the occasion. Whether physical or verbal, the twins were given free reign by their parents to work it out themselves.
Twins need to learn how to resolve conflicts with one another. Productive conflict resolution is an important skill in all stages of life. Gentle guidance from a parent at times is helpful, but at some point, your twins will figure out how to resolve conflicts on their own. And a wise parent will know when to step back and observe.
Stay tuned for my next post (part two of three), in which I’ll discuss more things you should (and should not!) do to encourage a healthy bond between your twins.