A wonderful advantage of twins is built-in peer pressure. Be it good or bad, you’ll find your twins mimicking or following each other.
If left unchecked, this can become a downward spiral of bad behavior. On the other hand, with some gentle guidance and praise, it can encourage good behavior.
Fortunately, you can leverage your twins individually to help the other do what you would like.
There is a very powerful psychological tool known as social proof. We like to go along with the crowd. It is safe and reassuring. Social proof is a tool that is irrespective of age.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Even from a very young age, your twins will look to each other to see what they should be doing.
Is one twin jumping on the bed? It won’t take long for the other to start jumping, too.
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Is one twin playing with her food? Don’t be surprised to see her sister making the same edible artwork on the kitchen table.
Praise Positive Behavior
As I’ve discussed before, it is fine to handle each twin one at a time. This is a key step in using positive peer pressure.
When one twin isn’t doing what you’d like, try this:
- Ignore the bad behavior. Don’t react to it.
- Turn to the other twin and immediately praise what she is doing well. Be sincere.
About 80% of the time when we try this, the “bad” twin will stop the bad behavior and try to mimic the “good” twin to get the same verbal or other praise, like a hug, a pat on the head, or a big smile. (For the other 20% of the time, there’s always re-directing their attention or even time out.)
Ignoring bad behavior and reinforcing good behavior isn’t a natural response but it works like magic. It is definitely worth practicing until it feels more spontaneous.
My wife and I have had great success using the principles of the book The Power of Positive Parenting in helping to discipline our twins. It was in this book that we learned this “trick” that has served us well even with our girls still very young.
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Picture by Ankur P