Should Parents Treat their Twins Equally?

By Audrey Porterman

It is tempting to treat your twins equally from the moment they are born. You start with matching layettes, then start dressing them in matching outfits everyday from then on — right down to the socks or the hair bows to match. Toys are purchased in matching sets. Play dates are scheduled together.

This focus on equal treatment starts to extend to all aspects of your lives. Time with mommy and daddy is carefully monitored to ensure that no one twin gets more than the other. Rewards and praises are watched closely to ensure that both are given equally. After all, you don’t want one twin to get preferential treatment.

Yet this careful attention to equal treatment may not have the well-intended effects you hope. Often, it can impede their development of individual identities, which they profoundly desire. The development of an individual identity starts as early as infancy and continues throughout adulthood.

In order to help your twins develop their own identities, it is important to focus not on treating them equally, but on treating them fairly and on finding ways to meet their individual needs. Here are just a few ways you can break away from treating your twins equally and focus instead on treating them like individuals:

One-on-One Time

One of the easiest ways you can foster your twins’ sense of individuality is to spend time with them individually, starting in infancy. Make it a point to have special one-on-one time with each of them every day. This can be as simple as mommy reading one twin a bedtime story while daddy gives the other a bath. Each twin has alone time and the chance to establish that individual relationship and to talk about individual interests, hopes, fears, and so on.

Clothing

Clothing helps us express our personality and our individuality. Help foster that in your twins by dressing them separately, starting in infancy. Don’t merely choose different colors for the same outfits, or different but complimentary styles in the same color. If the outfit of one twin was chosen based on the outfit of the other, you are not allowing them to be considered individually.

Dress each twin as an individual. Later, when they are old enough to express their own choices and begin to develop their own sense of style, let them choose their own outfits. They may decide to wear similar (or even the same) outfits. If that’s the case, let them — so long as it is truly their own choice.

Play Dates

Of course, many twins are likely to share some of the same (maybe all of the same) friends. However, this doesn’t mean that they have to spend all of their time together, even when they are with shared friends. Twins have to learn to develop individual relationships. You can foster this by allowing them to have individual play dates.

Not every play date has to be an individual one. Yet you should strive to make them at least a regular part of the rotation — perhaps every two weeks or so, depending on what works best for your family.

Celebrations

Imagine how you would feel if every time you celebrated a milestone — a birthday, a graduation, heading off to college — someone close to you was celebrating it at the exact same time. This is the constant reality for twins.

Help make celebrations special and allow twins to feel a sense of individuality by throwing separate celebrations for each that reflect their individual personalities and desires. For example, maybe one twin wants a big party with a clown for his birthday, while the other just wants to go to the movies with friends. Find ways to make these celebrations special for each twin, rather than treating them like a unit.

While treating your twins equally might seem like the best way to establish fairness and to avoid preferential treatment, attempting equal treatment can actually have negative effects on the development of individual identity. According to Dr. Khanh-Van Le-Buckling, the author of “Twins 101: 50 Must-Have Tips for Pregnancy through Early Childhood from Doctor M.O.M.,” the goal should be to aim for fairness, not equality. Doing so will teach your twins empathy and help them to explore their individuality, knowing that they are treated differently based on their individual needs.

In what ways did you attempt to treat your twins differently to help them develop their individual identities? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Audrey Porterman is the main researcher and writer for doctoralprograms.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Ohio State, with a degree in business management. Her current focus for the site involves an online psychology phd and finance phd programs.