Why treating twins the same isn’t always fair

Growing up, my sister and I were always very different. She was the outgoing one, the popular one with lots of friends. I was the studious one, quiet and sensible. We were motivated by different things and so our parents treated us differently. Sometimes it felt unfair but looking back now, the alternative just wouldn’t have worked.

When we broke the rules, my sister was grounded. For her this was a disaster. To not see her friends was the end of the world. For me, it would barely have had an impact. Now stopping my pocket money…that hurt. Giving us the same consequence just wouldn’t have had a fair affect.

Me and my sister

That’s not Fair

As a parent to twins, it think treating twins fairly is even harder. My parents rationalised a lot of different choices because of our age difference but with twins you can’t use this excuse. Different treatment will be obvious for all to see. However, I know I need to raise them as individuals and so must treat them as such.

Whilst a countdown to get shoes on will often work with Emily, for Jessica it has the opposite affect. It’s too much pressure and she will resist even more. Make it into a game and they’ll be on quicker than your own.

When Emily falls down all she wants is a cuddle but if you so much as look at Jessica, you’ll be blamed entirely for her tripping. By recognising these little personality quirks, I can avoid some of the meltdowns and provide what they need at this stage.

Potty Training

Jessica was motivated by praise and stickers but for Emily, it was chocolate chips. When we tried to offer them both the same, it just didn’t work. They were dry at different points and still respond to different incentives when we need them to both go before an outing.

When it comes to discipline, they need different approaches too. Different consequences for the same behaviour seems unfair but as they learn the difference between right and wrong, I’m more concerned that they understand this in their own way than just face a blanket punishment.

Separate Time In/ Time Out

When one has done something that requires them to be removed from the situation such as hitting, they sit on our bottom step. For Emily, this is typically three minutes (one minute for every year). At which point we can talk about what happened and figure a way to try and put it right together.

Jessica takes longer to calm down. Often if she is still angry and upset after a few minutes we try ‘Time In’. I will sit and hold her without talking until she is ready to talk. I will also ask her ‘Are you ready to talk?’ We’ve found that conversations before she is ready are pointless and can go round in circles for 20 minutes. When we give her enough time, she is much more open to listening.

Of course it’s easier to just treat them exactly the same but we can’t be surprised if their responses aren’t identical. In the same way similar aged siblings may need different approaches so may twins. Treating twins fairly doesn’t necessarily mean treating them the same and treating them the same isn’t always fair.






3 thoughts on “Why treating twins the same isn’t always fair

  1. I have advocated for years that multiples are individuals within their group and it is like blowing into the wind. It is ingrained, and reenforced by the media, to look for similarities rather than differences. I support bereaved parents and surviving co-multiples and many survivors have trouble losing their co-multiple(s) and some wish to join them, have survivor’s guilt and struggle deeply with making the transition from We to I. If we did things at the beginning of their lives to encourage their individuality, would it help them, even a little bit, in being able to rely on their own personal strengths as an individual and not believe that they were “finished” because their co-multiple had died? They arrive together, but the chances are slim that they will die at the same time.

    1. It hard to put myself in their position and I’ll never know what it’s like to actually be a twin but everyone wants to be seen and valued so why not twins.

      1. No one is saying that twins are not valued as twins. They have a unique and special bond and it has been proven they are aware of each other in the womb. What is being said is that within the group are also individual people with likes, dislikes, abilities, interests, etc. that can and often are, different from each other and yet because of their twinship they are often consistently dressed alike, may have rhyming names, are expected to reach the same goals at the same time and have the same interests. Parents walk a line of encouraging individuality, but also ensuring their unique relationship also flourishes. To be perceived only as the “group” can be debilitating for both, often for different reasons. And then when one dies, the survivor has a mountain to climb in trying to be I when s/he has always been We.

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