What were they thinking?!

I wanted to post something else today, but this picture hit me straight into my heart while I was reading the newspapers online these days.

This picture shows four 6 year old chinese twins at their school in Shenzen (South China). Their parents did shave their heads and wrote huge numbers on their sculls to make it easier for their teachers to distinguish them.

In my opinion, it shows the complete inability of the parents and the teachers of these twins to cope with the situation. I find the act of shaving them and labelling in such an eye catching way very discriminating and terribly humilitating. By this act, they have been totally deprived from all the rights of being individuals. Twins, especially if identical or multiple twins, stick out already and there is no reason to make them feel even more uncomfortable about this.

I’m the kind of twins-mum who always wants her twins to be first of all individuals. On the inside and on the outside. That’s why I’m so outraged about this picture.

There are several ways to help people tell your twins apart. The easiest way is to make them wear different clothes. But even if twins need to wear a uniform at school, there are still little things you can change in their outfits. You can apply coloured stickers on the collars or choose a different hairdo for each child or let them wear a ribbon in their favourite color (for the girls) etc.. You can also use name tags until people can tell them apart. Personally, I prefer to point out physical characteristics to teachers, friends etc.: „Even the most identical twins have some distinguishing characteristic. (…) Identify a telltale feature for each child, for example a freckle, mole, eyebrow arch or hair whorl. Avoid comparative features; people can’t rely on them unless the twins remain together at all times.“ (cfr.

Seriously, what were the parents of these four twins thinking?!

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6 replies »

  1. It must be a cultural things as well- I think the so-called Western cultures focus more on individualism than Asians do (correct me if you think I’m wrong.) So for them they didn’t do anything bad- in a way they might even think that they made their children more unique because now they are recognized and not treated as “the Quadruplets”. Besides, the way I understand four twins is “4 pairs of twins=8 children), so these would be quadruplets.

  2. Actually, I just discovered that the numbers were shaved on their had and not written (the source I got the picture from was wrong, sorry). But if you do a search about this on the media, you can find very different reactions. Most of the reactions are quite neutral or amused. Have a look at I’m not sure it is a cultural thing. However, just to re-make my point: there are other solutions to differentiate twins. And in this particular case: Why numbers?! I think that the numbers on the heads will distract people to look them in the eyes and try to discover what makes them unique.

    • Oh well, we all react differently to this. However, this is hair. The parents might decide it wasn’t such a good idea and let their children hair grow normally. And yes, while I have no experience with having twins on my own, I usually try to see the differences- although this takes a while for me to happen.

      • You are right, it is only hair… but twin mums should know that twins often don’t like to attract attention wherever they are, that they wish to be just like anybody else, simply individuals. Labelling just for a short time is ok – it happens also with single children at the beginning of the schoolyear: some teachers do this just to get to know the names – but this is a whole other thing, in my opinion. It is more difficult to tell twins apart, and I can only recommend to focus, since the beginning, on physical differences, differences in their way of laughing, talking, and to remember their names. These quadruplets do have names too. How will people learn to call them by their names if they only see the numbers? And did you think about how the children feel walking down the street with this obvious sign on their head? It makes them -again!- feeling different.

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