Dare to Compare: Raising Twins to Be Themselves
Even in utero, your twins have been compared. When they are born, one is referred to as the bigger one, while the other is smaller. Then as they grow, every little thing they do or don't do is compared to what their twin is doing. The pure language and conversation of comparing twins is inevitable and not just by the parents. Other family members and even strangers will make comments about how one is bigger, blonder, or has bluer eyes. If they are in preschool, the comparisons by teachers will make you feel as if they think you sent clones rather than humans to school. The sad part is that as they get older and begin to understand what people are saying, they unwittingly take on the labels they are given. By the time they are in their teens, they will be convinced that one is smarter, faster, better, prettier etc.! From an early age, you have to develop a clear and conscious awareness of how much you compare and contrast your twins.
The whole comparison thing starts out innocently enough. One walks first, one talks first, one sleeps better than the other, one is taller or bigger. The list is endless, but the bottom line is that they are TWO INDIVIDUALS! As a parent of twins, it is one of your jobs to allow them to grow into themselves with wild abandon and allow them not to be labeled. Adjusting your language and resisting the urge to compare them is crucial to their self-confidence in the years to come. While every child has their gifts, twins will notice their sibling's before their own. This is magnified if, from the time they could talk, they were compared to their twin. Even though most of the comparison is done as a way to say, “wow, he is walking so much better than his brother” and intended as a compliment, there is still a small toddler who hears this and at some point begins to feel not good enough. Similarly, this causes the entire twin syndrome of being competitive at a very young age. While competitiveness is useful in life, a 2-year-old who wants to outwit and outdo their twin is full of frustration that they are unable to verbalize.
Realize that everywhere your twins go, they are looked at differently by others and people feel extremely comfortable making comments in their presence that they would never say to one child. If your kids look identical, a whole community of otherwise smart people think they are the same. If you have fraternal twins, then people have to compare everything from their looks to behavior. When you cease to do this, you are providing an umbrella with which they are sheltered from ever feeling less than their sibling.
In a way, this is the unfortunate side of your toddler being a twin. They can't even go to the doctor or dentist without being compared in some manner. As they get older, if a handle is not put on the whole comparison and contrast scenario, it can wreak havoc on their self-esteem and personal development. As a parent, you should quickly do what you can to embrace what makes them unique in a positive light and get into the habit of protecting them from the abundant outside comparisons they will receive.