Here is a question that comes from Dave. He lives in the UK and has 3-year-old boy/girl twins. He says that despite working from home and the twins seeing a lot of him, a lot more than most dads, they are getting so pro-mom that they make a huge fuss if he tries to do anything for them. Baths, bedtime, storytime, putting them in the car or high chairs at mealtime. “It’s driving me mad as I want to give my wife a break, but they seem to be stuck to her.”
Dave is looking for some help on how to break this scenario in his home. I, too, have seen this happen with our girls, how they always wanted Mom to do everything with them. They’ll have a temper tantrum if I want to help or if Mom is not available to help them.
Start With The Easiest One
I have noticed that this pattern seems to come and go in cycles. It’s not a constant occurrence with our daughters and I imagine that your kids, as well, go through cycles. I’ve seen that even though both of our girls can be stubborn about something, usually one of them is a little less adamant than the other.
And so, what I’ll do is I’ll look for the level of enthusiasm in each of our twins, and then I’ll focus my efforts on the least stubborn or try to increase my chances of success by focusing on the child that is most likely to respond. If she’s less stubborn or not throwing a temper tantrum or a fit, even if it’s only a little bit than her twin, she’s more likely to be persuaded to do something with me.
Of course, once you get one twin to do something with Dad, the other twin usually follows because you have a beautiful pattern of positive peer pressure.
Use an Alternative Close
You can also try something that they call the alternative close that salespeople use when they’re trying to sell you something. Instead of asking you a yes or no question, the salesperson will give you choices and you are encouraged to pick one of the choices even if you may not want either one of those.
This would mean taking Mommy off the list of options. For example, you would say to one of the twins, “Do you want Daddy to help you brush your teeth or do you want to do that yourself?” And so, Mommy’s not even on the list of options and so your child will have to pick one or the other. You, Daddy, to help or doing it alone.
You can think of similar examples that you can use in other situations, whether it’s putting them in the car, or bath time, or whatever the situation.
Build on the Positive
Another thing you can do is look for something, however small it may be, that your twins do with you, or near you, or for you. In this case, you’re looking to reinforce positive behavior. Take that opportunity to praise your child verbally, with a hug, with an arm around the shoulder, or even get Mom to comment on how nice it was to see your son or daughter playing with Dad.
We’ve seen our kids gravitate toward positive reinforcement and it does change their behavior over time. The trick is to be consistent, from a parent’s standpoint, in reinforcing the behavior that you want to see. However small it is, even baby steps, try to praise that behavior, reinforce it, and your kids will follow suit.
This question was originally addressed on the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Episode 31: When Twins Prefer Mom Over Dad, Separating Twins in School, Fraternal or Identical.
Picture by Amanda Curtis