I Need Help With My Aggressive Toddler Twin!

Question of the Week:
I have fraternal twin boys who are 16 months old. Recently one of the boys has become super aggressive. He steals his brother’s toys, hits, bites, throws food and bangs his head on the wall or the floor. It seems like nothing I can do will make him happy or calm him down. Any advice you can give me would be great.

Answer: Toddler anger and aggression is caused by frustration and in many cases is not only normal but healthy. Biting, hitting, throwing food, and yes, even head banging, are all common ways for a frustrated toddler to behave. Although I’m sure that’s comforting news, it certainly doesn’t help your level of frustration at this point in time! But in order to help your son deal with his aggressiveness, you’ll need to try to understand it first.

Many factors contribute to a toddler’s feeling of frustration. For instance, your son may grow increasingly irritated at the beginning of a new developmental stage such as mastering his fine motor skills. If he’s struggling with his shirt buttons and then collapses onto the floor in a pool of tears, don’t react negatively but rather show patience and understanding. Practice the new skill together when your son is calm and open to learning. Or perhaps he’s not quite developmentally ready to take on sharing toys with his co-twin. As parents of multiples, we all know that young twins must learn to share their toys a bit more often and a bit sooner than singleton children do. Yet sharing is not innate but a learned skill. Help your son master the art of sharing by congratulating him when he does (and ignoring the times when he can’t). You can even try incorporating “trading” in your twins’ play day. (“Hey, why don’t you trade toys with your brother? You give him your truck and he gives you his ball!”) You can award pretzel sticks or stickers each time your son politely shares or trades a toy. And don’t forget to teach by example as children watch their parents’ every move. (“Look! Daddy is sharing the newspaper with Mommy. Thanks Daddy!”)

Biological factors may also be a contributing factor to his negative behavior. He could naturally be more inflexible than his co-twin. A speech or auditory disorder may be at play as well. At 16 months old, your twin son may be frustrated in trying to verbally communicate his needs and wants to both you and his co-twin. Some studies have shown that speech delay and aggression in children may be related. In fact, a study published in 2003 in Developmental Psychology, found a link between physical aggression and lack of expressive vocabulary in 19-month-old twins. Have your son’s speech evaluated for no charge through your local school district.

And finally, think about your home and/or daycare environment. Overcrowding, not enough toys or even a lack of adult attention may cause some of his negative behavior. Take some time to simply observe your child in his environment and watch for his trigger points—is he tired? Is he hungry? Is he lonely? Make accommodations where you deem change is needed.

It’s important to remember too that your goal is not to repress your twin’s anger—he’s allowed his feelings—but rather to help him channel his frustration in a more constructive way. However, if he continually hurts himself or his co-twin, or you feel his behavior is out of control, he may need to be evaluated by a professional as it could signal an emotional problem.

More Tips to Calm an Aggressive Twin:

  • Carve out alone time with each twin separately every day. All children crave one-on-one time with their parents, especially twins who often don’t get enough. Positive parental attention and affection often curtails negative behavior.
  • As long as he’s not hurting himself or others, try to ignore the negative behavior but not the child. Catch him when he does act in a kind, caring or cooperative way and praise him enthusiastically. (“Wow! I like how you gave your brother that cookie. That was so thoughtful!”)
  • When a child hits or bites his co-twin, respond immediately and firmly tell him that the behavior is unacceptable. Be specific. (“No. You may not bite. Biting hurts.”) Then turn all your attention to comforting the victim.
  • Help your child express himself and his frustrations verbally. (“You seem angry that your brother is riding the tricycle. Do you want a turn? Let’s ask him nicely for a turn.”) And if you suspect that your twins’ speech is not on target, get him evaluated by a professional.
  • Offer ample opportunity for some physical exercise. Engaging in large muscle activity—running, skipping, bike riding—releases tension and negative emotions.
  • Keep your cool. Diffuse tense situations with humor or try distracting your son with a book or toy. Offer lots of affection in the way of hugs and verbal praise.

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

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My Twins Are Heading to College: Insert Sad Face

In a few days, my twins will be heading off to college. While they are excited and more than ready to fly the coop, I’m barely holding it together. It’s actually a cruel twist of fate—for many years of my twins’ lives, I wished they’d “hurry up and grow up,” thinking that the next stage of their lives would be easier than the stage that they were in! I’ve made no secret on this blog that I found the toddler years to be especially difficult. With two little boys running in two different directions, I was often exhausted, totally spent by the end of the day. Well, my little boys have grown in the blink of an eye (POOF!) and now they are heading out the door.

My heart is breaking. Twice.

sheets, towels

We are still color-coding! Even as they pack for college, it’s red for “Twin A,” and blue for “Twin B.”

It’s tough to say whether this is hitting me harder because two are leaving at the exact same time. Would I feel the same level of sadness if just one child were leaving for college? As my twins are the oldest, I have nothing to compare it to. But this I do know: my twins constitute a large percentage of my brood! It’s a big chunk of energy, laughter, and just plain chaos that won’t be around from day-to-day. And as much as I have complained (both here and to my husband and friends), I loved the energy. I relished the laughter. I will miss the chaos.

But mostly my twins leaving symbolizes an end of an era. For the past 18 years, my life has revolved around my kids. Although I have many interests outside of the family, at the moment, I can’t remember what they are! I had an interesting life before my kids but I’m clearly at a loss as to what that was. It’s going to take some time to reinvent myself, to get back in touch with the former Christina. But I need to find her.

So as I end this post, I’d like to give a bit of advice to those Moms (and Dads) out there with young twins:

  • Embrace the chaos! 18 years will go by in the blink of an eye. I swear. I used to hate it when strangers would approach me in the store when my kids were acting up, saying, “Enjoy it now because before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone.” It’s hard to enjoy tantrums, picky eaters, finger paint all over the living room carpet, and little boys who won’t take their naps, so instead embrace it! Learn to laugh at the craziness in your life. Takes lots of photos. Shoot lots of videos. At the very least, it will give you something to do instead of pulling out your hair.
  • Nurture your marriage. Yes, the kids are important. Yes, they need your attention and love but so does your spouse. One day very soon the house will be quiet again and you’ll be alone with the one you married. If that relationship had been put on the back burner while the kids were young, it’s going to be a lonely second half of life. Remember why you two fell in love in the first place? Focus on that every day.
  • Save your money! Sending two kids to college at once is enormously expensive! Open those 529 college savings accounts today. And save as much as you can while the kids are young and the money has a chance to compound and grow. It’s a much better strategy than saving just a bit while they are young and then amping it up when they are older.
  • Finally, be selfish. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


Boy-Girl Twins: Should They Have Their Own Bedrooms?

Question of the Week:
My daughter and husband have fraternal twins, a boy and girl who are now 5 years old. They are sleeping in the same bedroom and have been since birth. At what age should they have their own rooms?
—D. F.

Answer: Your question is one that inevitably pops up in all families with more than one child but in the case of twins, and in your particular case, boy-girl twins, there are many more issues at play.

When twins are young, there’s no doubt that sharing a bedroom offers comfort and companionship. After all, nighttime doesn’t seem so lonely or scary to a child when a sibling is nearby. In fact, many parents report (I include myself in that group) that sharing a bedroom actually promotes quality sleep with less waking in the middle of the night. But for some toddler twins, sharing a room may actually disrupt the other’s sleep especially at nap time when one twin decides he’d rather play than rest. If this is a concern, many parents have found that when they set up a pack n’ play or port-a-crib in another location such as a home office or den, both twins can get their afternoon shut-eye without much disruption.toddler boy-girl twins

On the other hand, twins have always been expected to share more than singletons simply because they were born as “a pair.” Many parents of twins place the duo together in a single bedroom even if another is available simply believing that twins should be together to promote their special bond. Yet because of this forced sharing, some twins have a harder time individuating or developing a sense of autonomy. Or, some twin roommates end up squabbling over territory. Many twin experts, therefore, believe that parents should strongly advocate for their twins’ own personal space and that means offering each child his or her own room. No need to worry that the twin bond will suffer by this new arrangement. By allowing each child a bit of privacy to discover his own distinct personality, their bond will actually strengthen.

Your question has one more component, perhaps the most important: should brothers and sisters share the same bedroom? At some point, most twins ask for individual rooms especially boy-girl twins where issues of personal privacy and modesty come into play. As opposite-sex twins reach puberty, they may begin to feel more self-conscious about their bodies and uncomfortable in sharing the same space but not know how to broach the subject with their parents. Mom and Dad should therefore begin the discussion of personal privacy and appropriate boundaries early in their twins’ lives, and when they reach the school years, offer each twin a space of his or her own.

But what happens if space simply doesn’t permit for each child to have his or her own bedroom? What are your options? Thankfully the Internet is full of clever designs for dividing a single bedroom into two, separate spaces. A simple Google search turns up a vast array of suggestions from using a wide bookcase to hanging a curtain down the center of the room. I even saw an ingenious design using old, wooden construction pallets!

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

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5 Reasons NOT to Name Your Twins This

Choosing a name for your baby is an exciting task. But when it comes to giving your twins their names, it can get a little complicated. Not only do you and your partner need to agree on not one but two names, but they both need to sound good together. There’s lots of advice out there on the subject but in my opinion, some of it is misguided. For instance, I recently read an article proclaiming the best boy names for twins. The list focused on pairing names that sounded alike such as Porter and Parker, Jordan and Jaden, and Chance and Chase.


Don’t get me wrong—I love all those name. Individually. But I would seriously think twice about giving my twin sons matching names, and here’s why.

Similar sounding names are a tongue twister.

Alliterating names are tough to say. Porter and Parker are bound to be twisted into Parter and Porker at some point in their lives. Rhyming names like Preston and Weston are just as bad but now the children have become caricatures to boot!

It’s confusing to friends, family, teachers, and classmates.

Twins, regardless if they look alike or not, get confused for one another from the moment they are born. Don’t compound their struggles to be seen as individuals by naming them similar-sounding names.

It perpetuates the myth that all twins are inseparable soul-mates.

“Look! We’re alike! We look alike. We talk alike. And even our names are alike!”

Parents of twins are all in agreement—they want to raise unique, individual children. Yet according to the Social Security Administration, so many continue to give their twins matching names. If you want others to treat your twins as individuals and not to think of them as a pair, why not start off by giving each twin a distinct, individual name?

Besides, if you have another child in a few years, are you prepared to add another alliteration so the younger, singleton sib won’t feel left out? Taylor, Tyler and Tyson? What a mouthful!

It can cause a paperwork nightmare.

Same birth date. Same grade in school. Same last name. Similar-sounding first name. Mix ups with school transcripts, job applications, and the like will happen. (It has happened to my twins on several occasions and their first names start with a different letter!)

cute is for kittens, not for naming your twins

It may be cute now but your older twins will not thank you.

Close your eyes and picture your twins. No, no, not as cute little toddlers wearing matching bib overalls but as full-grown adults. See them? They are fraternal twin boys about 18 years old. They are tall, nearly six feet. They call each other “bro.”

Now call their names out loud. “Chance! Chase!”

Somehow it just doesn’t seem right.

The bottom line.

Cute is for kittens, not for naming your twins. Instead, choose names that are strong, distinct from one another, and will stand the test of time.

Trust me, your twins will one day thank you.

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How Do I Get Out of the House Alone with My Twins?

Question of the Week:
My twin boys are four months old and I just don’t know how to get out of the house alone with them. I am home alone with them during the day and need to be able to get out more for my sanity. I live in a third-floor condo with no elevator. I have about 30 steps before getting to the ground floor and from there I have another two minute walk to our garage. I can barely hold one car seat yet alone two. I don’t feel comfortable taking one to the garage at a time since it would take me over five minutes to get back to the condo for the other. There aren’t any storage options at the foot of the stairs, only inside the condo or in the garage. We could leave the car seats in the car. I don’t have a twin backpack but I did get the Weego but haven’t tried it yet. It sounds weird but I have a fear of dropping them while trying to transport them from the carrier to the car seat. Do you have any suggestions? Do you know of any equipment that could help me? I already use a backpack as their diaper bag. I have read that other moms go up and down the stairs with some strollers but each stretch of my stairs have about 14 steps and are steep.
—J. T.

Answer: I’m so sorry for your frustration. I remember being home alone with my twins whensurprised identical twin girls they were that young and at times it felt very isolating and lonely. Getting out and about with them on a regular basis was important to me as it really lifted all our spirits.

You’re right in not wanting to leave one twin alone in your condo as you take the other to the car. It’s far too dangerous and should never be considered. So what options do you have left?

Thankfully there are several.

The Weego is a great idea. It will feel uncomfortable and cumbersome in the beginning but if you practice inside your condo walking around with your twins tucked inside perhaps just doing your daily chores, you’ll be a pro in no time. Once you feel confident and ready to navigate your staircase, remember to hold the railing with one hand, and wrap your arm around your babies with the other (obviously don’t wear high heels and go slowly).

If you don’t like the Weego, some moms (myself included) have had success with putting one twin in a Baby Bijorn in the front and the other twin in a baby backpack in the back. But remember, always practice getting your twins in and out of whichever carrier you choose in the safety of your own home and on weekends when your husband is around to offer a hand if it gets tricky.

Furthermore, organize for your outings ahead of time, even if your outing is simply going to the grocery store. The night before or early in the morning before your husband leaves the house, put your packed diaper bag, stroller, and car seats in the car. This way when you’re ready to head out the door, you can concentrate solely on your babies and not worry about hauling another piece of paraphernalia. You’ll always have free hands.

Are you a member of you local Mothers of Twins Club? I ask because every single member has been in your exact position and most are very willing to help a new mom of twins. Join one of their play groups and ask if someone could help you get out of the house on the day of a scheduled play date. I bet a mom with older twins would be willing to come over and give you a hand so that you can join them all.

If a local club is not an option, form a playgroup of your own and host it in your home. Invite other moms with young children (find them in your neighborhood, at your local church/synagogue, or post a note at your pediatrician’s office). Even though your babies can’t exactly play, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about bonding and socialization with other moms anyway! It may not get you out of the house but it will help you build a network of support.

And finally, as soon as your babies learn to walk, begin teaching them the safest way to traverse down the stairs—backwards. (When teaching them, you should also head downstairs backwards positioning yourself one step lower than your twins to act as a buffer in case one slips.) It may sound crazy but as moms of twins know, we have to teach our kids to do things sooner than singletons or we’ll go crazy! Having your twins become more mobile will help you get out of the house but just wait until they start to run in opposite directions once they get outside.

Yes, the fun is just beginning.

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Summer Reading for Grade-School Twins

Last week I put together a list of books for young readers where the main characters are twins. The reason? We’ve got to get our kids reading over the summer to keep their skills up! Yet it’s not easy especially if you have a reluctant reader. Perhaps if the stories your twins read centered on characters just like them, they’d want to read a bit more. It’s worth a try! So this week, I have another list but this one is filled with chapter books for older readers (ages 8 – 12) but once again, the protagonists in each book are twins. Here’s to a great summer filled with books!

book The Land of StoriesThe Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
by Chris Colfer
(good for ages 8 – 12)

Author and actor Chris Colfer of Glee fame (yes, Glee!) has cleverly crafted modern-day fairy tales for young adult readers. The first in a four-book series, The Wishing Spell follows the adventures of 12-year-old boy-girl twins, Alex and Connor Bailey, who have accidentally fallen through their grandmother’s old book of fairy tales only to find themselves in a magical land filled with all the cherished characters that they grew up reading about. But after one-too-many encounters with witches and goblins, getting back home is proving to be a bit difficult for the pair.

Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist’s Son Part I
by Martin Booth
(good for ages 8 – 12)

When 12-year-old boy-girl twins, Pip and Tim, and their parents move into a long-deserted 15th century estate, the children quickly discover Sebastian, the son of an alchemist who has been living in two, parallel universes for more than 600 years. He enlists the twins’ help in defeating his father’s enemy, an evil alchemist who’s determined to create a malevolent homunculus. The story is a bit gruesome and gory, peppered with a bit of the history of alchemy, but perfect for the kid who loves a good (low key) horror story. (Sequel is Soul Stealer: The Alchemist’s Son Part II.)

Bobbsey Twins 01: The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport
by Laura Lee Hope
(good for ages 8 – 12)

The Bobbsey Twins are back! The stories have been updated and reissued for a whole new generation of kids. As in all 30 classic tales (that will keep your kids busy), eight-year-old Bert and Nan along with younger twin siblings, four-year-old Freddie and Flossie, have a mystery to solve. Sweet, old Mrs. Marden is now in a nursing home, her former residence abandoned (perhaps even haunted) and days away from the wrecking ball. She asks the young sleuths to find some valuable souvenirs in her old home but she can’t remember where she put them. To add to the intrigue, it seems someone else is after the treasure as well. Will the children find them in time?

book The Genius FilesThe Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable
by Dan Gutman
(good for ages 8 – 12)

Unknowingly selected for a secret society sworn to help save the nation from terrorists, 12-year-old twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald (yes, I’m afraid so) on a cross-country trip with their parents must stay one step ahead of the bad guys trying to kill them (it’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise). Author Dan Gutman peppers his quick prose with clues, maps and coded messages in the margins throughout his books, encouraging readers to follow along on the McDonald’s adventure. (First of four books.)

book The UnwantedsThe Unwanteds
by Lisa McMann
(good for ages 8 – 12)

The first in a series of four dystopian novels by New York Times best-selling author, Lisa McMann, The Unwanteds follows the saga of identical 13-year-old twins, Alex and Aaron. When the boys are separated during the purge—Aaron is judged “wanted” and sent for military training while Alex is deemed “unwanted” and cast off to a death camp—their relationship is tested. But Alex soon discovers that he will not be executed but rather he and all other “unwanteds” are trained in art and magic and encouraged to explore their creativity. (This series has been described as “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.”)

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Summer Reading for Young Twins

Summer is right around the corner and with it comes the dreaded Brain Drain, that rapid release of knowledge from your twins’ intellect. Having your kids read every day is a great way to keep up their skills during the break but it’s not always easy to get them to sit down with a book, especially if your twins are reluctant readers and the great outdoors is calling. Part of the problem is finding a book that they can relate to, a subject that excites them or characters that speak to them. Maybe, just maybe, if your twins read stories with protagonists just like them, they’ll be inspired to read more.

Below is a list of great stories with twins as the main characters. I start with beginning chapter books for young readers and conclude with short novels for fourth- through sixth-grade readers. Next week, I’ll cover more fiction for fourth- through sixth-grade twins plus fiction for preteens and middle-school children.

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!Ling and Ting
Ling & Ting Share a Birthday
by Grace Lin
(good for ages 6 – 9) 

These two illustrated short chapter books follow six-year-old Chinese-American identical twins, Ling and Ting. In Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same, the girls explain their similarities while celebrating their differences (Ling, for instance, can’t use chopsticks while her cotwin is quite capable and tries to teach her). In Ling & Ting Share a Birthday, the twins prepare for their upcoming birthday party, each baking her own cake. But when Ting burns hers, her sister happily shares by cutting her cake in half. Now that’s sister love!

Two Times the FunTwo Times the Fun
by Beverly Cleary
(good for ages 6 – 10)

From beloved children’s book author (and mother to twins), Beverly Cleary, these four, short, illustrated tales follow along with four-year-old twin brother and sister, Jimmy and Janet. Although they love to play together and to share a silly joke, the pair couldn’t be more different. Jimmy loves to dig holes in the backyard using a grown-up shovel while Janet loves to use her imagination. Both, however, like to talk to the mail carrier, Mr. Lemon. This is a classic, true-to-life tale that has stood the test of time.

Cam Jansen & The Mystery of the Television Dogcam jansen
by David A. Adler
(good for ages 8 – 12)

While waiting for a “pawtograph” from famous TV dog Poochie, Eric and his twin sister discover the dog has been switched with an imposter! Spunky fifth-grader, Cam Jansen, comes to the rescue and solves the mystery of who snatched the dog using her photographic memory.


Double Play at Short
by Matt Christopher
(good for ages 8 – 12)

Twelve-year-old Danny, is a shortstop on his local baseball team. Life takes a strange twist when he learns that he’s not only adopted but he also discovers that the new girl on the team is none other than his separated-at-birth twin sister! Implausible perhaps but a fun read nonetheless, especially for fans of the sport.

The Counterfeit Tackle
by Matt Christopher
(good for ages 8 – 12)

Another great sports tale from writer, Matt Christopher. This novel follows Buzz and Corky, identical twins who are anything but alike. Corky is popular in school and loves sports, especially football. Buzz, on the other hand, is quiet, studious, and a chess champion. One day when they decide to trade places, problems arise.

Mitch and Amymitch and amy
by Beverly Cleary
(good for ages 8 – 12)

Nine-year-old twins, Mitch and Amy, couldn’t be more opposite and find themselves always arguing. Although they enjoy being twins, some times it just isn’t easy. But the duo soon set their differences aside and band together to defeat the school bully. A great story especially for twins who have a hard time seeing eye to eye!

Parenting Twins: What Not to Worry About

When you are expecting twins, you have a lot on your mind. Yup, you worry. A lot. You wonder (and pray) if you’ll make it to Week 37. You cross your fingers that your babies will spend little or no time in the NICU. And then when you do finally bring them home from the hospital? You still worry.

You worry if they are getting enough milk and growing accordingly. As they hit the toddler years, you worry if their speech is on target (as twins experience speech delay more often than singletons do).

And then come the school years and you worry some more.

You worry if you’ve made the right classroom placement decision. You worry about their relationship—their bond—too. Are they spending too much time together? Or, are they fighting constantly? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And on it goes.

I know first hand how much worrying goes into raising twins. Not only have I spent many a sleepless night worrying about my own twins but I see it here every day on my website in the search terms people use to find information on parenting twins. Some of the worry is understandable (like if you’re gaining enough weight during your twin pregnancy) but other concerns are needless. Below is a list of unnecessary worries. Take a look and then resolve never to worry about them again!

Don’t worry about your twins’ first birthday party. (Or any birthday party, for that matter.)

Forget about the “Two Peas in a Pod” party theme. Resist buying the “Thing 1; Thing 2″ party t-shirts. Don’t even think about ordering that three-tier Noah’s Ark cake.

Seriously. The first birthday party is for the adults, not the twins. At age one, your twins won’t even remember the day much less be affected by it. So give yourself a break and keep the day simple—a few family and friends over for a barbecue and some cake. Take a few photos of your twins (together and separately) smearing chocolate frosting all over their faces. And then call it a day.

Your twins won’t notice the absence of pony rides or an ice-cream sundae bar. They will not hold it against you when they are older. I promise.

Don’t worry about spending too much time alone with each twin.

Taking only one twin out for an afternoon is a joy. A delight. Just snuggling with one baby while his cotwin naps in the other room is pure bliss.

Yet some parents fear that if you regularly spend time with just one twin this will hurt the “twin bond,” or that they are subtlety showing favoritism of one twin over the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a difference between relating to your twins as a pair and relating to each one singularly. They are different people when they are together than when they are by themselves. Alone time allows you the opportunity to get to know that single little person, and to form a deeper, one-to-one connection with each of your twins.

Furthermore, allowing each twin some time apart from one another actually helps to nurture their bond as everyone needs time alone to develop his own sense of self, especially twins.

Don’t worry about your toddler twins fighting.

young twin girls whispering

I bet these twins were fighting right before this photo!

So many parents worry that their twins will never grow up to like each other as their twins are always fighting. Well, the truth is….are you ready for it? Twins are siblings and all siblings fight.


Some days my twins (now 18 years old) are so mean and nasty with each other I can hardly believe what’s coming out of their mouths. Yet, an hour later there they are laughing together about some stupid photo on Instagram. Blows my mind every time but there it is.

And get this…some sibling squabbling is actually very good, even healthy, as it’s a way for kids to learn the art of negotiation. To learn to speak up for themselves.

So stop looking at all the cute photos of identically dressed twins holding hands. (I bet they were pulling each other’s hair out right before someone snapped the photo!) Stop listening to all the über moms telling you how much their twins love each other. (Those moms are exaggerating!) As long as you allow each twin his own personal space and the opportunity to pursue his own dreams without the added pressure of having his twin tag along, their relationship will mature and blossom. Just give it time.

And finally…
Don’t worry about treating your twins equally.

Instead of focusing on treating each twin equally, concentrate on treating each “uniquely.” Why? Because your twins are not the same. They never were. They were each born with their own likes and dislikes, their own personality quirks, their own temperaments. At some point, one twin will need something that the other does not—a new pair of jeans, a math tutor, a $1,000 loan. Then what? Do you give the other a pair of new jeans, a math tutor, or the $1,000 loan even if he doesn’t need it just to even things up? Of course not.

So the same can be said for your time and attention. At some point, one twin will need you more than the other. And that’s OK. Give the twin who is needy what he requires and don’t worry about his cotwin. His turn will come soon enough.

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Will Too Much Independence Hurt the Twin Bond?

Question of the Week:
I’m a working mom of five-year-old fraternal twin girls. They’re currently in preschool three days a week. On the days they don’t attend I send them to separate baby-sitters. I’ve done this for almost a year as I’ve always felt they should be independent of each other. They’re both completely different in every way from looks to likes. I have never referred to them as “twins,” using each girl’s name separately and I’ve enforced this with family and friends.

But it seems even on their separate days they argue and fight terribly. If “Twin A” wants to borrow “Twin B’s” toy, “Twin B” says “no” it’s her special toy. I’ve always agreed that they each have their own toys and a special toy does not have to be shared. “Twin A” gets hurt and uses the “she-isn’t-sharing line” but when I reinforce the special toy rule, “Twin A” says “Twin B” hurt her feelings. “Twin B” also purposely ignores “Twin A.” When “Twin A” calls “Twin B’s” name a hundred times in a row getting no response, of course I step in because if I hear the name one more time I’m going to scream, but “Twin B” says she wants to play alone. It is all so frustrating!

Several of my friends who have fraternal twins as well feel I have forced the individuality too much and now they’re just not close. What can I do so that my twins will be friends with each other and have the “twin” bond every speaks of? —B.H.

Answer: There’s nothing more frustrating for parents than to see their children bickering and fighting with one another. And when you’re the parent to twins, triplets or quads, it hits especially hard as we’ve all been told that multiples have a special and unique bond. Yet it is totally bogus that your twins’ fighting is because you’ve nurtured their individuality. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve met where it’s just the opposite—their twins fight constantly because they spend way too much time together. And when the parents finally give their twins some breathing room—time away from each other where each child is free to be an individual rather than a twin—presto! The kids get along much better.Fraternal twin girls fight over toy.

Remember, fraternal twins are merely siblings born on the same day. They don’t share nearly as much of their DNA with their cotwins as identical twins do so therefore they can have vastly different personalities, dispositions, likes as well as dislikes. Yet everyone who comes into contact with fraternal twins assumes that they’re best friends, soul mates.

Talk about high expectations!

Some fraternal twins are close from the day they are born; others are not. But even if twins aren’t close as children, that still doesn’t mean they won’t be close some day. Think of your own siblings. Perhaps you fought constantly with them when you were kids (I know I did with my sisters) but now as adults, you have solid, close relationships.

Keep in mind, too, that all siblings fight. Your girls are young and just beginning to get to an age where they’re learning about the world around them, to negotiate for what they want, and to put their feelings into words.

Furthermore, from the research that I’ve read on twin subsets (identical boys, identical girls, fraternal boys, fraternal girls, and boy/girl twins), it’s fraternal girls that are the most independent, have more outside relationships and fewer shared friends, and experience more inter-twin conflicts than all other twin types. These qualifications were merely the girls’ observations of their differences rather than a statement of dislike for their cotwins, and it was these differences that helped them to define their relationships. Many fraternal twin girls believe that their relationship with their cotwins is constantly changing and evolving. But most importantly, they don’t view this as a negative aspect to their twinship.

Bottom line? Your girls behavior isn’t out of the norm and is sure to mature as they grow older.

Yet it is totally bogus that your twins

In the meantime, however, there are a few things that you can do to help them navigate their relationship more peacefully. For instance, you may want to examine how you react to your daughters’ fighting. While you should never let one twin physically hurt the other, you shouldn’t take sides or intervene for every infraction either as it can intensify their rivalry. Instead, try to be more of a referee only stepping in when necessary. Let them work out their toy squabbles on their own. I know it’s frustrating to listen to the arguing so why not try distraction techniques (“Hey, let’s watch a DVD!” “Anyone want to go to the park?”) when their conflicts appear to be heating up.

Continue to offer them opportunities to do what each girl would like independent of the other but perhaps you can find some common ground in their relationship, too. Look for activities where they both enjoy playing together or have a common interest. Drawing? Cooking? Music? A particular board game? Compliment them when you do see them cooperating with each other. (From my own experience, I know this can be hard but if you really listen for the positive behavior, you will find it. Make sure they know but saying something like, “Wow, I really liked how you shared your snack with your sister. That was so thoughtful.”) By focusing and praising the positive behavior and ignoring the negative, you’ll reduce your stress and your daughters are sure to internalize “the right way to act” towards each other.

Have a question about your twins? Ask it and I’ll answer it here.

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When Twins Learn to Drive: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

My fraternal twin sons recently got their drivers’ licenses. While they are overjoyed at the prospect of hitting the Open Road without Mom or Dad, I’m less than enthusiastic. Living in a major metropolitan city, driving here is downright dangerous and I’m always worried whenever they head out.

I know that every parent frets over her teenage drivers. We are all in this together! But when you are a parent to twins, there are definitely issues that singletons manage to side step. Or, as I see it, there’s The Good, The Bad, and The (downright) Ugly to teenage twin drivers.

The Good: When my twins head out in the car together, I actually feel a little better. Maybe it’s a false sense of safety but it calms me nonetheless. Why? Because I know the boy driving that night has a wingman, a co-pilot. One son drives; the other navigates. Or, more likely, one son drives, the other shouts, “Watch out for that tree!” (“Whew! Thanks Bro. I was too busy changing the radio stations to pay attention.”)hand on a steering wheel

Furthermore, research shows that teenage twins tend to having greater difficultly in rejecting their parents’ values than single-born kids, especially if the family rules have been reinforced by their cotwin throughout childhood. In other words, it’s less likely that twins will go rogue (i.e. drinking and driving, texting and driving) than singletons simply because they would not only have to go against their parents but their cotwins as well. Or, researchers theorize, twins find strength in each other, making it easier to reject questionable behavior.

Whether or not this pans out is anyone’s guess. I’d like to think it does! (Humor me, please!)

The Bad: There’s only so many hours available in a week to teach your teen how to drive; sadly, twins have that time cut in half. Half the time spent behind the wheel went to Twin A; the other half went to Twin B. It was frustrating for them as well since they had to (once again) share. Learning to share was cute when you are a toddler twin but not so much when you’re a teenage anxious to learn how to drive. With the abbreviated time spent learning, it took my twins a bit more time getting comfortable behind the wheel. Furthermore, we made our twins wait quite a bit longer to get their licences (again, not very popular with our boys). We wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing before we handed over the keys.

The Ugly: Let’s talk car insurance, shall we? Ours tripled overnight from $1,400 a year to $4,200, and that’s with the “good student” discount. The thought that I’m paying more than $200 more a month so that my boys can head out on their own on a Saturday night really gets my goat. I’d rather plow that money into their college accounts (don’t get me started on that one) and have them call a taxi (that would be me) instead but they need to learn to drive. It is an important skill just like learning to swim that every child needs to master successfully. Besides, they’ve told me that I simply can’t drive them anywhere any longer. “It’s just not done, Mom.”

Anyone else feeling my pain?

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