Grit. Resilience. You’ve probably heard these buzzwords in the past two years as the current culture of helicopter parenting has come under scrutiny. For me, helicopter parenting is the default — my kids are not yet four years old and I’ve had to hover over them for the first couple years of their lives. When they were infants and then young toddlers, it was my job to make sure their physical and emotional needs were met and to keep them from injuring themselves (or each other!). But now, I give them more room to run at a playground and I try to stay out of tiffs with friends over toys. But, again, because I had to be so physically close for the first few years, I have to fight the urge to be so…present.
I know that if I continue to hover, and then intervene, I will have failed to allow them to develop this important trait in times of trouble: grit. In Grit to Great: How Perserverence, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval examine how it’s being a hard worker (not simply gifted) that more often leads to great success later in life. How someone bounces back after a huge setback is the barometer for how much potential she has. So it’s important that we parents land the helicopters and sit back while our kids run and play and fight and make up and trip and skin knees and keep running. So not only do we need to let our kids fall, we also need to let them get themselves back up.
But parents of twins have an extra challenge. Even when they sit back, there is someone else there, trying to keep their child from falling and failing: her twin. Twin interviewees reported to me that they often did whatever they could to protect their twin siblings: intervening in a schoolyard fight, helping a twin sibling cheat on a test, encouraging “the popular crowd” to include a twin sibling in an excursion, etc. And while these all sound like lovely displays of sibling loyalty, they prevent an opportunity for mental and emotional growth.
When twin children are constantly together, experiencing life with each other, each child is not able to develop his own strength and independence. Always being in what one twin interviewee described as the “eternal comfort zone” as a child hinders one’s ability to face difficult times as an adult. Thus, twin children need to have experiences that they go through alone so that they can learn how to navigate the world on their own terms. This will better prepare them for life as adults.
I have discussed before how separation of your twins counterintuitively helps them maintain a tight bond. Well, separation of your twins also helps them develop those essential traits of grit and resilience. Your twins’ failures today will lead to more successes in the future. So let’s start allowing them to fall, even if that means separating our twins so that they can fall (and get up) alone.