by Sylvia Semel   Competition
This is about competition between multiples as well as other children. Introduction
 My brother and I are opposite-sex fraternal twins. I would like to share my experience being a twin, discuss the unique problems of twins, and suggest ways to solve those problems.

The problems of twins apply to other multiples and to singletons especially singletons who are one year apart. The closer in age children are the greater the competition. A child who’s six years younger or older than other siblings is raised like an only child.

Raising a child is a formidable task but raising twins is daunting. The more information parents have, the more power they have. The more flexible their approach to parenting, the more options they haveWith any relationship come conflict and change. Parents need to make their twins aware of this before teaching them the basics of conflict resolution.

Parents Please Eliminate ComparisonsCompetitionCompeting with Your Twin
I felt intensecompetition with my twin even though we are opposite sex twins. Parents mean well, but they tend to compare one twin to the other. “You’re good at math, but your brother’s better at history.” Or, “You’re more outgoing than your brother.”

Comparing one twin to the other encourages competition, and twins are already overwhelmed by competition. They compete for their parents’ love, acceptance, approval, attention, and time. And they’re in competition over intellect, school grades, popularity, and appearance. 

My parents and well-meaning relatives would inadvertently and constantly compare us, which resulted in me wanting to beat my twin at everything. I needed to excel, but of more importance, I needed to do better than my brother. An example of this was report cards. I felt less anxious and more confident if I received more A’s than my brother.

 Please eliminate comparisons, or at least lessen how often you make them.Help from the Mother

Instead of validating myself, I would expect my mother to validate me. I would repeatedly ask her, “Am I smarter than my brother?”

A response that can decrease competitiveness is, “I can’t compare you to your brother or to anyone else because you’re unique. And I love you for being you. You’re extremely smart. You do know that without having to ask me, don’t you?”

Because you’ve told your twin daughter how you feel about her without comparing her to her twin, you’ve encouraged her to move towards separation and independence. And you’ve also encouraged her to answer her question without your help, further encouraging independence.Twins in the Same Classroom: Competition at School

In fourth grade my brother and I were put in the same classroom. We had previously shared the kindergarten class but had different teachers in first through third grades. 

 The principal was conducting an experiment. He wanted an answer to the following question: is it beneficial for twins to be in the same classroom? He suggested to my parents that my brother and I be put in the same classroom, so that question could be answered. My parents respected his educational status and allowed it. How Did I React to Sharing a Classroom with My Twin Brother?

That year was torture. I had been an angry child, but during that year I became an enraged child. I had enough competition and sharing at home. I didn’t want to compete with my brother at school, too. And I wanted to be my own person, the individual that I was, and not be known as so and so’s twin sister.

Ernie, a cute classmate, and my teacher, helped me get through that year. Ernie had a crush on me (which was reciprocated by me), and I was one of the teacher’s favorite students. They both offered a diversion from my anger as well as a boost to my floundering ego.

When our class was going on a trip, Ernie’s mother volunteered to drive some of the students. The teacher asked the students whose parents were driving to choose who they wanted to go in the car with them. Ernie picked me first.  
At first, I was elated. Then anxiety set in. “What if I disappointed Ernie, and he didn’t like me after the trip?”, I pondered. I allowed anxiety to control me.

Where was my self-confidence? I was unaware of the thought processes (most likely caused by low self-esteem) that began early in my life, which evoked anxiety and caused me to avoid anxious situations.

As it turns out, I caught a cold, and the doctor had to make a house call. I remember my mother asking him, “Can she go on the trip?”

 “If she feels well enough,” the doctor responded. But I didn’t feel well enough, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t go on that trip. But I was also relieved.

My parents thought that the flu had psychosomatic roots; a defense brought on by fear of disappointing Ernie and subsequently being rejected by him. That’s a possibility, but we’ll never know.

It would have been worthwhile if my parents had had a discussion with me about my fear of rejection. I could have worked on both my self-confidence and anxiety issues which were tied in together.

Although Ernie was hurt that the girl he had a crush on didn’t ride in his mother’s car with him on that school trip, he recovered, and we remained friends.How Did My Twin Brother React to Sharing a Classroom with Me?

My brother had a difficult year, too. He couldn’t deal with the discomfort of twinship, a term I’ve coined which refers to the twin relationship. His defense was to ignore me and pretend I didn’t exist. That hurt!

It proved to be detrimental to put us in the same classroom.Helpful Parents

Here’s where my parents could have intervened to help my brother:

To try to change that defense to a healthier one before it’s incorporated into the defense system and becomes a pattern that generalizes to all relationships; that is, if you feel uncomfortable with conflicting feelings towards someone, withdraw and ignore.

Every twin is unique, and how other twins react can be the opposite of how we reacted. A Discussion with Your Twins about Sharing a Classroom

A discussion with each twin separately and then together might provide the answer about sharing a classroom. For instance, you can ask your daughter, “I’d like to know how you would feel being in the same classroom as your brother?”

Your question encourages your daughter to discuss her feelings and gives her options. She’s learning to feel and express emotions in a healthy way.

Ask your son the same question, and then encourage the twins to discuss their feelings on this topic with each other.

Twins share enough time and space. They don’t need to be in the same classroom. If they’re not together, they can’t compete. Summary

There’s intense competition between twins.

Minimize competition by not making comparisons.

Don’t allow school administrators to dictate school policies that may be detrimental to your twins.

Teach your twins to be aware of their feelings.

Stop unhealthy thought processes and actions before they become a permanent part of your twin’s behavior.

Let your twins’ opinions count.   About the Author:Sylvia Semel  has self-published four books: No More Roommates; No More Dating; No More Sex, Being a Twin: What Parents Need to Know About Their Twins, Absurdities: A Mature Woman’s Diary, Poems You’ll Love: A Collection of Lyric Poems and Haiku. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she has written numerous flash fiction and nonfiction stories, some of which have been published.