My boy/girl twins are 5 years old and in preschool. Twin A, my daughter is the dominant twin. She is outgoing, mostly kind unless provoked, a bit sensitive, and is definitely the popular twin.
Baby B, my son has been my sidekick since birth. He was the easy-going baby, content to lay under the playmat watching the lights, and listening to music. He is very gentleman-like, always allowing his sister to go first; exiting the womb, crawling, walking, talking, etc. He is an early intervention graduate in speech and I still maintain that he always had the words, he just couldn’t compete with his extravert twin sister.
Baby B has always been more sensitive, shy, and self-conscious than his sister. These characteristics were apparent very early on, but I didn’t give it a second thought until they started preschool.
My daughter would come bouncing out of class, joyfully reciting all the names of the new friends she had made. My son was always quick to exit class, but out of excitement to be reunited with me. At first, he was content sharing friends with his sister. Then after a handful of playdates with his sister’s best friends, he came to me, head down and whispered, “I wish I had a best friend to play with.” If you listen really closely, you can actually hear my mommy heart breaking.
We’ve all heard the “don’t compare your children” speech, but when your children are twins, it’s really hard not to! You have two children, born on the same day, equal gestation length, approaching milestones at the same time. So when one seems ahead of the other you can’t help but worry. Social development is a black hole of worries, especially in our social media-driven world.
Will my daughter always be more “popular”? Does being popular mean she’ll have more friends and be liked more? What if my sensitive boy feels left out? Will he always feel second best to his sister? Will he retreat and stay shy because he feels that is his role?
That’s the popular twin vs That’s the less popular twin
Is there usually a shy twin?
It turns out this alpha-beta twin-ship isn’t unique. Twins unconsciously negotiate their relationship so one person in the pair is the designated leader in certain aspects of their lives. Research suggests with boy-girl twin pairs, the girls often take the lead. According to a 2020 review co-authored by Nancy Segal Ph.D., a combination of prenatal testosterone exposure and being more mature in general explains why girl twins take on a more dominant role.
Will my shy twin outgrow their shyness?
Almost all toddlers are timid with unfamiliar places and people. About half of these children will outgrow their shyness by the time they are 5 or 6 years old. Of the remaining children, about half will have outgrown their shyness by their teenage years. Some children will remain shy throughout their lives. Of course, you should always encourage your children to share their opinions and points of view. However, requiring your shy child to join in may only frustrate you and intimidate your child. Instead, provide your shy child with lots of empathy, encouragement, support, praise, and acceptance.
When should I be concerned?
You should be concerned if, by age 4, your child’s shyness prevents them from venturing away from your side, playing with friends, or participating in preschool lessons. By the late elementary years, this withdrawal reflex can become deeply ingrained. Physical symptoms like stomach aches or headaches are classic features of shyness and social anxiety. If these types of symptoms develop, you may want to consult with your pediatrician. Be supportive of your children’s temperament. Always show respect and sensitivity to their needs.
Everyday shyness that does not prevent your child from achieving their goals or participating in life can have its advantages.
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Reasons it can be good being shy:
- Shy people are often very careful listeners
- They can give a very welcome presence without saying a word
- They often have an inner peace that shines
- Shy children are often well-behaved and nice children to be around
- They can be deep thinkers and cautious
My son has made some connections with some of his peers, he even had a best friend for a bit. His sensitivity has played a big role in his social interactions. He is best when he has one really good friend, however, he has his feelings hurt easily when his one friend wants to be friends with others. He is no worse or better than his outgoing sister, he is just different.
Remind yourself that having a shy child is not all bad. Remind your child that being shy is okay and has its benefits.
What about the popular twin?
Don’t discourage your outgoing twin to be anything less than who they are. Most likely they are not purposely out-doing their sibling (at least in the younger years). Popular people are extroverts; very social, outgoing, very talkative, and love meeting new people.
My daughter enjoys being around activities and other children. Her strengths are communication, socializing in groups, and working well with others at school, and she brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm. These are not bad characteristics and I will not fault her for being popular because of it. Truth is, she’s a joy to be around. She is a friend to everyone, including the gentleman on the motorcycle who stopped at the traffic light outside her car window! She is no better or worse than her introverted brother, she is just different.
Reasons it can be good to be popular…..
- Strong leadership skills
- Stands up for what they believe in and do not waver from their beliefs
- Builds strong relationships and is basically a lover of people
- Passionate about the things she considers important
- Determined and not easily swayed from their individual viewpoints
Twins are often thought of as a unit instead of two individuals. I often make this mistake. Remind yourself that people shine and develop at different times and twins are no different. Encourage your twins to be their own person, and stand in their own light, not in the shadow of each other. It is ok to let them assume different roles, they will eventually build up an equation and happily thrive in it.