How to Avoid Double Double Trouble: Advice on Parenting Twins

Without a doubt, identical and fraternal twins must be seen as individuals, each with his or her own strengths and challenges. Respect for the twin bond―a deep attachment―is critical, because undermining the twin relationship will confuse young twins, leaving them unprepared for interacting socially at school and in after-school activities. Twins need to revere their twin identity; otherwise they may feel like “freaks,” “a walking side show on four legs,” or “the girl with two heads.” But no matter how in place your strategies for healthy twin development are in your own mind, twins are “double trouble,” and they can be double “double trouble” if they learn to outsmart you. Understanding how and why in-sync clever twins amplify your parenting problems will help maintain sanity at your house, at school, and at the shopping mall, restaurants, markets, department stores, and in the car.

You must ask yourself after a long day of giving them each special time and loving: They are adorable twins; what is making them so mischievous and hard to unwind? My twin sister once shared with me how she would explain with non-twins our problematic unruly behavior as children growing up. “Our passion or proclivity to make and follow our own rules is an untold story. We didn’t have the words to explain our close relationship and the importance we placed on one another for affirmation and for making decisions.”

Thinking about this now I realize that we saw each other as at least as smart as our parents and our older brother, even though we were brought up in a traditional Father Knows Best family. We didn’t know or understand that we could not make decisions without our parents. We came up with some ridiculous solutions to problems, which made us happy and engaged with each other. Our half-baked solutions did not help us learn to relate to our parents, teachers, and friends. Actually we were at a disadvantage later in life because we relied on one another way too much. And then we needed to find other people to compliment us as we had done for each other. It took a very long time to learn to do for ourselves what our twin did for us without even asking.

I share all of these childhood memories and stories because I see the power and destruction of “double trouble” playing and taking its course unknowingly with twins and parents whom I consult with when incomprehensible events are popping up and causing chaos, confusion, and yes, heartbreak. Double trouble is twin power, based on a primary attachment that can get out of control quickly. Parents need to look for the signs of double trouble and work to reduce the twin issues that keep the destruction going.

Signs of “Double Trouble”

1.  Power imbalance between twins where one is the leader and the other is the follower.
2.  Language development is over-developed in one twin and under-developed in the other.
3.  Twins have areas where they won’t compete. For example, one twin can read and the other will not read. And then the nonreader draws endlessly and the reader refuses to even write their own name.
4.  One twin is impulsive and the other twin is responsible for making the plans and keeping the impulsive brother or sister in check.
5.  One twin is happy and the other is sad.
6.  Arguments between the twins never stop.
7.  Parents feel helpless to get their children to follow directions and house rules.
How to Diffuse “Double Trouble”
1.  Know each of your children as an individual and help them develop their strengths and work on their challenges.
2.  Make sure that you understand how your twins are relying on one another. If you see that one twin is taking care of the other “too much,” then understand why, and help the child that needs help so the brother or sister is not burdened with this responsibility.
3.  Develop realistic parent rules that establish a child-centered structure that can be understood and followed. Have realistic consequences when children do not listen to you.
4.  Try to see yourself as in charge. Your parental authority will help diffuse double trouble.
5.  Think positively. An overwhelmed attitude gives your twins the upper hand.
6.  Make clear to your twins what decisions they can make and what decisions are not theirs to make. Keep this rule a conviction in your own mind.
Hopefully these thoughts will help you calm your children down. If you need more help you can call me at (310) 443-4182 or email me at