The Gay Uncle received a note from a desperate reader the other day.
I have three year old twin sons. The eldest (by eight minutes! Can’t forget that!) James, will sit in my lap off and on all day. His brother Simon, is not that much of a cuddler. Now here is my problem. James gets very jealous when he sees me holding Simon and will literally climb on top of me to edge Simon out of my lap. I have tried telling him to wait his turn, and that I am Simon’s mommy too, but he will refuse to give up. I have been patiently trying to change this reaction for almost a year with no luck. Is there anything else I can do?
Of course, he responded promptly!
First, it’s important to note that sibling rivalry is normal, even more so with twins who are going through many of the same issues at around the same time. Like with most areas of conflict with kids, the best solution is to try NOT to place yourself in the middle of the conflict. If you struggle back, the situation will usually escalate. So do your best to give James a single, straightforward, positivist, concrete instruction–”Simon’s on my lap right now, you can have a turn in TWO MINUTES if you wait patiently–and then ignore James when he continues his efforts, and be sure to follow through on 1) the timing and 2) the repercussions (not giving him some time in your lap) if he doesn’t abide.
Another option is what I like to call the Co-option Option. If James wants up in your lap when Simon is up there, have them both. Your lap is probably big enough. Suddenly, the struggle is taken out of the situation.
The third tactic is one that requires a bit more planning in its execution, but is important for any family with more than one kid. Give each of the kids some individuated attention on their own without their sibling. Take just James or just Simon to the park or a movie or a walk around the block or out for ice cream (you can return the favor with the other kid the following day or week, with a similar or different activity.) Of course, like with anything with young kids, let them know in advance of your plans, and how and when they’ll be included in this munificence in the near future as well (calendars are great for this, as they make the future–and abstract concept–concrete for young kids.) Explain that it’s important for everyone to get some special one-on-one time. Sometimes this is what kids are craving when they’re attempting to exert control over a sibling.
Finally, be aware of what else is going on in the kids’ lives when these issues come up. Things like toilet training or a move or starting school or a pregnancy can cause kids to become a bit more needy affection-wise. Tailor your responses accordingly.