Before I actually had my children, I had a misperception about parenting. I thought that I could have the same parenting style and use a consistent approach for all of my kids. Having twins, I believe, deepened my flawed thinking. My opinion was that if I have two kids, at the same time, I could approach my kids the same way. Well, I was WRONG! My kids are twins; they were born on the same day, just two minutes apart. And that’s about where their similarities end. When it comes to their gender, personality, learning styles, they could not be more different.
Although my twins are only three years old, I have quickly learned that I must employ varied parenting techniques to adequately meet my children’s needs. I think that when raising multiples, it’s easy to fall into the trap that everything must be the same for them. And although, consistency and fairness is important when parenting, meeting your kids where they are and utilizing different techniques to meet their individual needs is paramount. I mean, I have fraternal boy/girl twins, so it’s a little bit easier for me to realize that there will be differences, but I think all parents of multiples should recognize that their kids are individuals and foster their growth and development in response to their individuality.
So, as a result, I will share some ways in which I have made adjustments to how I bring up my children.
Foster their individual interests and strengths at home
Like I mentioned before, my kids are polar opposites. I have a rough and tumble boy. He is very active, is very methodical and analytical, and loves blocks and any kind of learning that’s hands on. My daughter, on the other hand, is more into reading books, loves to color and play dress up. Some of these are gender differences (I promise that I didn’t force them into this. It’s just their preferences and what they have gravitated towards). But as a result, I am very strategic in the activities that I select for them, at home. I buy a lot of puzzles and games for my son. I also make sure he has a lot of hands on activities at his disposal because that is how he learns best. My daughter loves reading and books and story time (though my son cannot sit still enough to develop an appreciation). Therefore I spend time reading extra books to her while my son can go off and play with toys and games that are educational but allows him to be more hands on.
Find extracurricular activities that match their unique interests
Again, each child has a unique set of interests, strengths and skills. And it’s our job as parents to identify them and encourage their development. No two children are the exact same, even among multiples. Some kids are athletic, some artistic, some are more musically inclined. Take the time to figure out where your child’s talents are and find activities that match that interest.
I know, as parents, we have very busy lives and our time is limited, and therefore, it’s difficult to find the time to get our children involved in different activities. But I would encourage parents to individualize extracurricular activities if possible.
Celebrate your children’s differences
Although my kids are as different as night and day, I appreciate those differences. I see talents and gifts in both of my children, though their talents lie in different areas. And I believe that’s great. Twins are set up, by default, for comparison, but make sure you do not fall into that trap. By highlighting and fostering them as individuals, you will not set up the dynamic for comparison, but rather, you will define separate spaces for your children to thrive! They could potentially learn from each other’s strengths, and not compete with each other.
Varied Parenting Techniques
Because my children also have completely different temperaments, I found that parenting techniques also had to be tailored to fit the personality of the child. My daughter is shy, a little reserved and bashful around strangers. My son is a little more defiant and prone to temper tantrums. When we first approached the toddler years, I expected some defiant behaviors, as I read that was normal. However, over time, I noticed my daughter’s defiant episodes were few and far between, while my son threw tantrums daily. At first, I was confused. I parent them the same. I’m consistent and firm. Why am I able to redirect my daughter’s behavior and not my son? Well. I wasn’t considering temperament. My daughter has an easy going personality.
My son is a little more “determined” as his preschool teacher describes it. Otherwise, known as stubborn, LOL! And they’ve both been that way almost from birth. When the light bulb went off, and I realized my kids have different dispositions, I discerned that I have to interact and respond to them differently when addressing behaviors.
To watch my two kids grow, flourish and learn in such distinct ways has been fun and fascinating. They are both great, but in much different ways. I’m looking forward to observing how they continue in that development and learning more about them as their personalities continue to unfold. I think that is a wonderful gift that comes along with raising multiples!
Rashain Carriere-Williams and her husband, Kellom, are the parents of 3 year old boy/girl twins, Aubrey Madison and Karson Michael. She is also senior director at a non-profit agency in New Orleans, LA.