One twin excels; other wants to quit

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: We have 11-year-old identical twin boys who both do well in school and their other activities, but "Dylan" is pulling ahead a bit, particularly in sports. We are finding that even though "Cole" enjoyed the sports equally at first, he loses interest as soon as Dylan pulls ahead of him. We have tried to put them on different teams, but logistically we just can't keep them completely separated, or they would both have to miss some things.

Do we let Cole join and quit teams as he pleases, or switch him to something Dylan is not playing, even though they both love (for example) soccer?

Answer: If your boys were not twins, just regular old brothers, you'd have them on different teams (because you'd have to) and you'd either find ways to get them to everything or accept their having to miss things occasionally.

So why don't you just choose to treat them as regular brothers, not twins?

Not just logistically, but emotionally as well. Your boys are two complete, whole, distinct people. They deserve to be treated as such, not as half of a set. Taking advantage of the twinning as a chance to drive less or plan less is not fair to them, not when they would benefit from being treated as regular sibs would - and putting in the effort to do that sends them the message that you see them as unique, distinct people.

That, in turn, eases the pressure when one advances beyond the other at something. There will still be comparisons and rivalries - as with any sibs - but it will be an order of magnitude less intense.

Where separating them isn't possible focus on smaller differences in positions, roles, strengths. Value and reward contribution and hard work over stardom. You have to be subtle, since kids see through it. But if you consistently show that you value hard work, the message does tend to stick.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at