The Absence of Birth Order Dynamics
Singleton siblings spread out over several years develop a natural order. Aside from influencing personality development, birth order often sets the standard for how children are treated in families. Older siblings lead, younger siblings follow. Older children have more freedom, but also more responsibility, as they mature.
Younger children watch and learn from their older siblings. There is a natural disparity of ability due to age.
But multiples are the same age, and – usually – at the same stage. They face milestones simultaneously. They become mobile at about the same time, potty train simultaneously (generally), and start school together. Although some parents impose birth order personality characteristics on their multiples based on who was born first, it’s a false designation. Without the defined roles established by birth order, multiples invent their own version of a pecking order, and often their parents have to deal with the fall-out.
Parenting Mulitples as Individuals
Every parent is tasked with guiding their children as they grown into individuals. Where parents of multiples face an extra challenge is in helping their children become individuals in spite of – and in support of – their status as a multiple.
Despite parents’ best efforts to treat their multiples as indivudals, to avoid comparisons and labeling, it’s a constant fight to fend off society’s views. Multiples face a barrage of stereotypes and are constantly confronted with comparisons because of their twinship. Their friends, neighbors, teachers and even well-meaning family members will attempt to label and categorize them.
(She’s the good twin, the smart twin, the pretty twin…If one likes baseball, the other one must also…He’s outgoing, so his twin must be shy.)
Where singleton siblings often feel the sting of sibling rivalry, the effects are offset by birth order and by the passing of time. They have years (or in some cases many months) to achieve the milestones set by older siblings. For multiples, the milestones are expected to be simultaneous.
Therefore, it’s very important for parents of multiples to overcome the stereotypes, labeling and comparisons by offering continual guidance and encouragement to their children, supporting them as they develop as individuals within the context of their relationship as multiples.
Division of Parental Assets
Many parents of multiples feel challenged to divide their time, attention and love between their children, more so than with singleton siblings spread out over several years. Having children of different ages creates more opportunities for individualized time: babies nap while older children are awake. Older children stay up later at night. Older children start school while younger ones are still at home.
Multiples generally do everything at the same time.
They’re asleep at the same time, and awake all together, making it more difficult for parents to find one-on-one time for individual attention. Parents of multiples have to make a more concerted effort to bond with each child.
Maintaining equality is another big challenge for parents of multiples. Where a staggered birth order often evens things out for singletons, it’s often a struggle for parents of twins or more to ensure that each child gets their fair share. Whether it is time, attention or material goods, it’s simply not possible to always maintain equality among multiples, setting up parents for frustration and guilt.