How I’m Teaching Fairness to My Twins

Starting from the time they were babies, my kids have had to learn to share, whether it was toys, clothes, their room, or my attention. Actually, it’s not like they had to “learn” anything — it just was what it was. Now that they’re 4-years- old though, they seem to have developed more of an awareness about what’s “fair,” so I’m hearing a lot of “Dat’s not fair! I want to play with dat!”, which is then usually followed by fighting.

Yes, in my house there’s sort of a constant battle over who gets in the car first, who picks out their yogurt first, and who gets to push the “inside button” in the elevator. There are arguments over who had the toy first, and whose turn it is with said toy, and if one boy has had the coveted toy too long. There’s also massive disappointment when one boy beats the other at Chutes and Ladders or Robot Turtle (which, btw, is a game where everyone wins). It’s sibling rivalry, but it’s a rivalry among equals, among two people who have the expectation of being “equal.”

So what do I do? Well, there’s always a constant negotiation, as I try to come up with alternatives that seem “fair.” For example, one boy can push the outside button of the elevator and the other can push the inside, and then we’ll switch on the way back. They each get to pick one show in the afternoon, and the kid who asks first gets first choice. If I get one kid out of the car first, then I insist that the other one open the door to the school. They even look at each others’ halves when I break up a cookie for them to share. This tit-for-tat is all too important with them.

I know, I know: The rest of the world isn’t fair. At preschool, everyone gets a turn, but it’s not like all things are equal. Maybe this kid pulled the wagon for two minutes and then another kid got it for three minutes, and then it was time for snack and five kids are all bummed out cause they never got to be wagon-puller. When children are playing a game, someone always wins, and often, it’s not going to be them. For some reason though, my boys don’t seem to care as much about things being “fair” with their friends or at school. No, no, it’s fine if Billy’s been on the swing too long, but if it’s his own brother? Oh hellllll no! Again, it’s sibling rivalry, and maybe because they are twins, that competitiveness is even stronger?

All I know is that, with twins, everything is just a little bit harder, including parenting “fair.” So I do my best to make sure each boy feels he’s gotten his due, whatever that may be. I’ll admit that I’m not always so fast on my feet, and often wind up saying, “Ummmmm, uhhhhhh, okay, you can have a brand-new toy!” when I really should have just said, “Well, it’ll be your turn to play with it tomorrow.” Or, I’ll ask them to come to a decision together — like what face to carve on the pumpkin — and in the end, have to just make a whole different decision myself because getting two headstrong 4-year-old boys to agree on something is about as difficult as asking Congress to come to an agreement.

Again, I know that life isn’t fair, so maybe it’s silly for me to pretend that it can be. In our home though, to keep the peace, we try as best we can to make sure life for our twins feels equal. 

How do you teach fairness in your own home?

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