If you were to pop into our home at any moment during the day, you’d probably hear me utter the following phrase within minutes of walking through the door:
“You shared a placenta for eight months, you can share this (toy, snack, book, mom’s lap, fill-in-the-blank).”
The truth is, I remember my identical twin girls getting into their first tussle over a teething ring at the age of six months old. We thought it was hilarious, took a video and sent it to our family members, who also thought it was hilarious. “Hand-to-hand combat!” my dad replied.
Fast-forward 18 months and it’s not so hilarious anymore. It’s more like being a constant referee, but minus the whistle, snappy striped shirt, and instant replay capabilities.
So we’ve been working hard on learning how to share and take turns in our house. Here are our five strategies to encourage sharing:
1. Model It
I demonstrate sharing with my husband or even the twins on a consistent basis. I ask Daddy to please share something in front of the girls, and make sure to say, “Thank you for sharing, Daddy!”
With the girls, I will ask one to please share something with Mommy, like a snack or a pretend sip of water. Again, I make sure to say, “Thank you for sharing!”
2. Praise It
Make a big deal out of your twins when they decide to share! The other day I asked A to take a snack to her sister before I handed her a snack for herself. I watched her walk the cup to her sister and hand it over. I then erupted into praise and clapping.
“Yay!” I cheered. “Good sharing!” Sometimes I accompany this with a dance and a round of Dora the Explorer’s “We Did It” song (which they love). They’ll often clap for themselves, knowing that Mama’s proud of them!
3. Practice It
Sometimes, especially if we have two of something, I will show the girls both items, such as a ball. Then, I’ll hand one to one girl and ask her to “go share this with Sister, then I’ll give you your ball.” If they don’t want to comply, I’ll take the opportunity to walk her over to her sister and help her hand over the toy, praise her, and then make sure she gets her own.
We also practice saying, “please” and “thank you” each time they ask for something and receive it. They’ve started saying both unprompted, which warms my heart!
4. Time It
Lately, the twins’ obsession has been a little plastic figurine of Peppa Pig that they want to put in a toy car and drive around. Many tears and tantrums have been caused by the lack of equity in Peppa time!
So I started setting the timer on my phone. For 5 minutes, it’s E’s turn. I show them the count down on the screen and say, “When you hear the ducks, it’s time to switch turns” (my timer quacks when it goes off and they love it). I usually have to step in and make sure the toy changes hand, but I explain the process all over again and they calm down fairly quickly after that.
5. Take It Away
When all else fails, I take the toy/book/snack away. I always make sure to tell them, “Because we’re not sharing well, we’re not going to play with this right now. We can try again later.” When I reintroduce the toy, I remind them that they have to share with one another in order to continue to enjoy playing with the item in question.
As with all things twin and toddler, some strategies work some days and not others. Be consistent, and soon sharing will become the norm more often than not! You got this, mama.