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Sibling Rivalry in Twins

How To Deal With Sibling Rivalry Among Twins

Competition among siblings, though often subtle, is a normal part of family life. Few families, except for those with only one child, can escape some sort of sibling rivalry.

Brothers and sisters often compete for everything from love and attention to praise and rewards. Often the competition is not openly recognized or acknowledged, but instead subtly permeates family dynamics. Parents don't realize, for example, that when they offer a reward to the child without any cavities, they have created a situation that can be perceived as some sort of unspoken contest among siblings.

Twins are no exception to the competition rule. Most will admit they are very competitive, and their competitiveness extends to sports, school, business, romance and other areas of life.

With twins, it's easy to identify distinct patterns of competition. Sometimes there is great competition between siblings, with the parents playing a key role in spurring it on. Often this kind of competition plays a negative role in the twins' relationship with each other and in family dynamics as a whole. In other cases, the competition is much more positive as twins use competition to improve their own skills and knowledge. In some cases, competition morphs into teamwork. And then there are the twins who feel they are not competitive at all.

One pair of adult twins, Kim Smith and Cheryl Bobelak, say they aren't competitive with each other, though they had to think long and hard before answering. "We just enjoy doing things together," Smith says. "It wasn't who could get the better grade or who could be better at doing something. We just liked doing things together, so there really was, and is, no need to compete."

Twin Rivalry

Smith and Bobelak are two of the lucky ones. Competition was not something that consumed them or even something they thought about. At age 43, they say they are still able to live their lives in harmony. Other twins have not been so fortunate.

"My parents used competition as a way to motivate us," says Connie Wyckoff, 58, when talking about growing up as a twin. "That was very important to our folks. If one of us got an A and the other got a B, my parents would make us feel that the only one loved was the one who got an A. It was a difficult way to be raised. My folks and I talked about it recently, and they said they didn't know it was negative at the time. When we were growing up, no one gave you a class on how to rear twins. They did the best they could."

Unfortunately, competition between twins has the potential to spill over into everyday activities. Little routine tasks can easily turn into major sporting events where victor takes all. Sometimes it's tough living like that. The good news? Twin competition can be a healthy motivator.

Healthy Competition

Winning is a great feeling, no matter who you are and no matter what you do. Everyone enjoys the thrill of the adrenaline rush when you cross the finish line. Young or old, there is great personal pride in accomplishing something of merit. With a number of twin sets, though, there is another element that accompanies victory and cannot be ignored – the feelings of a twin. For many twins, competition can play a very positive role in development, especially as they strive to enhance their personal growth.

Kevin and Keith Hogan were very competitive growing up, and at age 31, they still are. "We are competitive, but we are competitive in a way that I don't care if he wins. I am happy for him," Kevin says. "If he makes a lot of money – more money than me – I am happy as can be. And then if he beats me in something, the next time we go out I am going to try extra hard to beat him."

Sometimes competition just happens. Twins find themselves in small towns with small schools and small teams, or they may develop an equal interest in a sport, musical instrument, hobby or pastime. Even as adults, that competition may remain. But with age also comes wisdom. Karen Brown, 32, and her identical twin, Kim Bellnier, were very competitive as children, but as they blossomed into adulthood, their feelings changed. In fact, they tried very hard not to be competitive, especially when it came to special events in their lives.

"I actually shared my first pregnancy with my twin," says Karen. "I had fertility problems, and it took a lot longer for me to get pregnant than expected. That was a big struggle for my sister because she and her husband wanted to plan for their second child.

"She had thought that I would be 'done' by the time they wanted another. She was concerned about becoming pregnant before I did or even sharing a pregnancy with me because this was to be my first. She did not want to take away from my special moment. Most sisters would not even think of this as an issue, but with twins, having shared every material item and emotional and physical milestone in your life, you think about it."

Within a few weeks after Karen became pregnant with her first child, her twin sister, Kim, learned she was pregnant with her second. And Karen admits she was disappointed – at first. "After my lengthy struggle, I wanted all the attention so I could feel really special," Karen says. "I got over my initial feelings quickly because I knew we had a unique opportunity to share this event as twins."

Sometimes the twin connection will even override a competitive spirit to the point where twins unconsciously discover that they have great teamwork.

In many cases, competition between twins can be very healthy and provide a number of genuine benefits. Twins can learn from each other as well as take pride in each other's accomplishments. They can help each other to excel, whether it's in school, sports or the pursuit of a rewarding career. And they can have fun when competing with each other – because in the end, they know their love is real and is there for a lifetime.

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