A few weeks ago, I was watching an Internet video where a set of twins sitting in high chairs were interacting with each other. Mom (I assume) was behind the camera, obviously amused by one of her twins (Twin A) playfully slapping his brother in the face and on the head. The camera keeps rolling as he slaps, slaps, slaps. The cotwin (Twin B) doesn’t seem happy but sits passively as his brother continues to smack him. But after a few minutes, he clearly has enough, and leans over and slaps his brother back. “Twin A” is stunned by the retaliation, and doesn’t like it one bit. The situation then escalates as each tries to out-slap the other.
You could see that this is not going to end well.
Sure enough, “Twin B” outmaneuvers his cotwin, grabs a hold of his hand and bites down. Hard. You can hear mom gasp at the sight of the sudden turn of events as “Twin A” begins to wail in pain.
It’s at this point that the video abruptly ends.
This type of behavior is pretty common between twins. Hitting, kicking, biting…I get many emails from frustrated parents on how to stop it. But this video made it pretty clear—we, the parents, can be part of the problem. We think some playful slaps are “cute,” and like this mom, we grab the camera to document it for posterity rather than trying to redirect the misbehavior or put a stop to it. But unfortunately, when we laugh at our kids antics, the bad behavior is only reinforced. (“Hey, mom grabbed the camera! She likes this! I think I’ll do it again for her approval.”)
But before you think that I’m judging too harshly, I’m not. You see, I was that mother.
When my twins were about six months old, they would sit at my dining room table in their tot-locks (those portable highchairs that clip to the lip of a table) directly across from one another. One day, while happily sucking on their morning sippy cups (color-coded, of course), they decided to trade by tossing their cups overhand across the table for the other to catch. I thought this was adorable! Ingenious! They were sharing! It was a total “twin-thing!” It never occurred to me, however, that this conduct could be dangerous, that someone could get hurt. Or, that my boys would internalize this practice and come to think that throwing objects at each other—inside, no less—was perfectly normal and acceptable.
Then a new friend and her newborn came over to visit during this morning exchange. As she sat there with her infant sleeping in her arms, my boys began their morning ritual of sharing sippy cups. Toss, sip, toss, sip, toss, sip. “Isn’t that cute?” I asked. But she didn’t respond. I could tell she felt uncomfortable. It slowly dawned on me why she was speechless but by then it was too late. Suddenly, her baby woke up and began to cry.
Yup. You guessed it. One of the sippy cups whacked her baby right on the head! I apologized profusely, realizing that I had inadvertently helped create this inappropriate behavior. But it was too late. Not only did I never see this woman again, but I had a heck of a time breaking my boys of this habit.