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How we prevent jealousy between Ava and Alexis

Ava and Alexis hold their twin cousins, Maci and Major!

I know we’ve said it before, but what we appreciate most about having this blog space is having the opportunity to continue conversations started on our other platforms, particularly our parenting youtube channel, the McClure Algorithm and podcast, Last Week in Parenting. It’s really important, to Justin and I, that we continue to evolve and deepen our thinking and this blog forum forces us to be intentional about doing so when the busy-ness of life might prevent it if we did not sit down to write.

As many of you know, about ten days ago, we went to Chicago to visit my (Ami’s) sister and her husband and meet our twin newborn niece and nephew, Maci and Major! We captured our trip in a vlog-style video and premiered it on our weekly show on Facebook Watch! You can also watch it down below:

S4E4 | TWINS FINALLY MEET TWIN COUSINS!

We traveled to Chicago to meet our baby twin cousins, and wanted to share the wonderful experience with all of you 🙂

Posted by Discovery Twins on Friday, November 2, 2018

We had such a great time and the girls could not contain their excitement in meeting their baby cousins. As you can see in the picture above, their smile couldn’t get any wider at the prospect of holding them. Like we mentioned in the podcast, as we fawned over the new babies, it took me back to remembering both the girls and Jersey at that age. (Jersey being much bigger than Maci and Major and our girls not being their size until around 4-5 months because they were born prematurely.) I couldn’t help but glance over to see the girls who were not bothered in the least by the attention being on someone else. Even Jersey, who was curious and maybe a touch jealous, never cried or threw a tantrum! I remember thinking that I shouldn’t be that surprised because of how well they responded to Jersey entering our family almost one year ago. While we casually remarked on how well our kids (even Jersey!) did sharing the spotlight with Maci and Major, we didn’t really discuss it in depth until our recent podcast, click image to listen in:

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

After the podcast I continued to think about the topic of possible jealousy among sibling groups, particularly multiples. I am looking forward to encouraging a lively discussion in the comments section below, just as I want to do with my own brand new YouTube channel, Life of Ami.

I know a lot of people say that once a baby comes, you don’t really remember a time when they weren’t there. And while this is true, the girls already had a lot of memories in the bank before he came. Because of their age differences, I wondered if this would be problematic when it came to jealousy issues. I wondered if being a twin actually helped them to be less jealous of a new baby and sharing attention. They have been exposed to taking turns and sharing focus from the very beginning while most children don’t have opportunities to do so until a younger sibling is born or when they go to daycare, preschool or kindergarten. Even as babies who were both grabbing for the same toy, we had to model and facilitate taking turns because there were two of them. When it comes to jealousy, they have had a playmate from the very beginning and are more focused on playing with each other than they are waiting for us to play with them.

Jersey is very curious about his new cousin, Major.

I have to admit that when I was pregnant with Jersey, I was less nervous with them having a new baby sibling than with the fact that it would be a baby brother rather than a baby sister.

“I excited to have a baby in the house but I still don’t want a brother — only a baby, not a brother.” -Ava

This was the first thing they said after I told them, just seconds before, that I was pregnant — click here to see the iconic video moment! As many of you can remember, to them boys have always been “stinky and yucky.” When they suggested we remind their dad “not to step on him” I took this as a positive sign, although they cheekily countered this with that the baby sleep in the basement, LOL. While this soon dissipated the girls had big plans for Jersey to be called “Generous”, (a much better alternative to “Nobody”) and began to talk about their big sister responsibilities. I was still unsure of how it would all play out once he was actually born — and named Jersey Tayo. We were set for smooth sailing until I told them I might have to stay in the hospital for a few days and they said:

“Why do we even want a brother?”

Thankfully as soon as they met Jersey, they thought he was “the cutest thing in the world” and they fell fast and hard in love! As they’ve discovered learning how to hold him, wanting to change and dress him, helping Mama get his diapers and other things he needs, and various other “big sister responsibilities”.

What was I ever worried about?

And the infatuation was mutual. Jersey lives for the girls and it is quite more time intensive finding ways to keep him entertained while the girls are gone at school for the day! From the time he was born, he was excited by anything and everything the girls did! Normally, he is perfectly contented just following them around and watching what they do. He loves to be in the mix with them at all times, even while I’m painting their nails he’s crawling around after (closed) bottles of nail polish next to us! He thinks that they are the funniest people on the planet and at times, they may even surpass me in being his favorite people. From his birth, to his first time sitting up, to learning how to crawl and later becoming an expert crawler, to cruising with his new walker, his first steps at ten months and all the way up until today, Ava and Alexis are Jersey’s biggest champions and are full of encouragement of all his little milestones!

Nana and her five grandchildren — TWO sets of TWINS!

With the girls, we have been very intentional about curbing any potential traces of jealousy. Because they are so obsessed with Baby Jersey, this foundation has been laid and will set the stage for continued cohesive and loving sibling relationships. Now, we just have to continue what we’ve started, just as we have with Ava and Alexis. In this blog, we want to provide tips for minimizing jealousy and fostering positive relationships within the family. Through our exposure, we have had the chance to interact with many parents, and frequently meet parents of multiples. I would like to synchronize what we’ve learned so far and share with you what has worked for us and what we will do as our children continue to grow.

With Jersey, we anticipate that being the non-twin may present unique challenges and he could feel steamrolled because there is “strength in numbers”. Just as it has always been a priority to make sure the girls know and value their individual identities, this will be of equal importance when it comes to their relationships with Jersey. The more we can continue to encourage and promote their individual preferences, thoughts and opinions, the less they will function as “two against one” and an impenetrable unit compared to their little brother and the stronger relationship they will have with each other.

“If you treat them as individuals then you will treat them fairly.” -Dr. Barbara Klein

While Jersey isn’t voicing a lot of particular opinions now, jealousy can come into play when he begins to be able to do so. Continuing to foster their individuality ensures that the girls will not always choose the same thing and create a scenario where Jersey will continually be the “odd man out”. For example, if they always choose the same movie to watch, Jersey will always be in the minority. In order to foster a dynamic where each child stands on their own two feet and speaks for themselves, we will focus future blogs on several key areas of discussion and their practical application. The girls are very used to sharing attention and don’t know any other way because it is the way things have always been. Jersey has a different set of circumstances.

Alexis and Ava in Chicago visiting their new twin cousins!

To avoid jealousy among siblings, here are a few tips that we wanted to share in the hopes that they are helpful to your family.

1. Avoid making comparisons

Whether positive or negative, avoid making comparisons between children. Sometimes parents do this to inspire their children but 99% of the time this backfires even if it is well-intentioned. Many people use comparisons as a way of encouraging good behavior. For example, a parent might say, “I like how so-and-so is clearing her plate and putting it in the sink” with tone and emphasis. While a bit passive-aggressive, it is a very effective way of both rewarding the child who is doing what you want and thwarting the behavior of the child who is not. Children want to do whatever it is to garner that same praise and will seek to emulate whatever behavior will earn those same accolades. The easiest way to think of this is positive peer pressure. While this works to get the child to behave a certain way, it can often lead to resentment between siblings. Children are not able to distinguish between behaviors and innate character. They often perceive making a bad choice with being a bad person and themselves as inadequate while their sibling is the family favorite. Simply saying thank you for doing xyz, even if the other child hears, is a lot more of an appropriate and helpful way of doing the same type of thing.

2. Pay attention to the individual strengths and interests of each child.

Rather than compare, focus on the particular areas of giftedness that each child possesses and celebrate that equally. This helps children feel good about who they are rather than focus on what the other is or is not doing. As each child is celebrated for who they are, each person in the family feels valued and sees themselves as an important part of a strong family unit. Each person in a family has inherent worth and brings something unique. Children need to be seen and noticed for who they are so that they can begin to take personal ownership of their behavior and have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

3. Spend one-on-one time with each child equally.

When parents have a partner or spouse, the beauty of tag-teaming gets you through the day. Tag-teaming that splits a family down the center is where it is not helpful. For example, this can happen where one parent exclusively works with one child without going back and forth. For example, Justin will not always work with Ava on her homework and I will not always work with Alexis but we will trade back and forth. We also do this by making a point of spending time with each child one-on-one whenever possible.

4. Focus on equality, not sameness.

Each child operates differently and what works for one will not necessarily work for the other, even in the case of twins. People are all motivated by different things and respond in various ways. As long as things are fair and judicious, they do not need to be the same.

For example, gift giving.

With multiples, this is trickier and a specific set of circumstances that we are still trying to work out. We do our very best to aim their gifts to their specific hobbies and interests. You can’t overthink this too much as 85% of kindergartners like unicorns these days — so the process isn’t very deep at their age. It will get more complex as they get older. One way we have handled this in the past is by really encouraging them to pick out their own toy if we take them to the toy store. Here is an example:

Birthdays and holidays are where it gets tricky. Most of the time they like to play the same thing and they always want to play it together. It is not feasible or frugal to buy for two different interests and then buy doubles so that they don’t fight over them and are able to still play together, particularly when their interests overlap so much. When we do buy separately it is for a group activity that we can all do, such as games or puzzles. When they get older, we will reevaluate and adjust accordingly to make sure their individual interests are being met.

Prioritizing family unity is so important, whether or not your children are prone to jealous bouts. These are just a few of the ways that we promote unity in our family, even if our children aren’t jealous by nature. That said, if your children do struggle with jealousy or competitiveness, it is very normal and it can be managed by being proactive and intentional.

Please let us know, in the comments below, how you combat jealousy in your home? Have you used any strategies that have been helpful?

 


Products Featured in this Video!

Find Jersey’s walker here:

Ava, Alexis & Jersey’s favorite duplo blocks found here:

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