Helping Your Toddler Learn to Share
“It’s mine.” Followed by an aggressive push and a ‘thwack’ to the head of a playmate is not an uncommon experience for parents of toddlers to witness. Most parents hang their head in shame when it is their child that won’t share. You begin worrying that your child is going to turn into a bully and may even resist playdates or social experiences to save yourself from the embarrassment. Sharing is not something that comes easy to anyone – but for toddlers, it is very difficult. If your toddler doesn’t want to share their things (who can blame them) you probably want to take action quickly. Here are a few things you can do to help your child.
The funny thing about toddlers is most of them don’t want to share, period. It doesn’t matter if a playmate wants to play with their favorite doll or some dusty loser toy that she has never even touched. They feel like their stuff is theirs! The truth is that toddlers DON’T share unless they are taught to do so. And teaching them to do so often is about allowing them to feel what it is like to not be shared with themselves.
If your child is being possessive, realize that they are asserting a sense of control. Explain to them that they are only allowing their friend to temporarily use their toy and that sharing is different than giving it away. Find an example from your everyday life – such as how Wal-Mart ‘shares’ the shopping carts with you. This way they will understand that they will get their cherished (or not so much) item back. In addition to that, try to teach your child that sharing and being fair is a two way street. If another child is mean to them, resist your first instinct to call that child names (and his mother), and help them identify what they are feeling. This way, they can see sharing in their own terms.
If you are going to the park or planning a playdate, your best bet is to prepare your child ahead of time. Role-play using their toys so they will have the verbal skills necessary to share with others and be shared with themselves. This is an empowering approach that shows them they still have control in situations by using their words and actions. Teach them how sharing with friends will make them feel good as well and that doing nice things for others is an important part of life.
Another idea is to make sure that you are available to help toddlers work through the sharing process. Taking turns and waiting for a coveted toy when another child has it, should be regulated by adults. When the children do it, they should be commended for their patience and understanding. Of course, in the world of toddlers – holding something in your hand is pretty much the law. In other words, if Tommy has the truck, then Joey can’t just take it away because he thinks it’s his or because he wants it. Toddlers are impulsive, and they have a very basic idea of what is right and wrong. They also believe whole-heartedly that the entire universe revolves around them. (Why shouldn’t they?) This is where taking turns and waiting can come into play.
You can also introduce the idea of trading to your child. If a playmate has a toy that they really want, see if your child can learn to offer them another one (perhaps even better). In many instances this works out well with toddlers, as long as each child has something to hold.
Sharing is not a natural instinct. As a parent, you wish it was. Don’t feel like your child is selfish or character deprived if they don’t want to share. Surely, even as an adult, you don’t always want to share everything! It really is about manners and respect. Try not to make the mistake of sending your child the message that they HAVE to share everything, all the time. This will, simply put, make your child the class pushover who gets walked on by other children. Asserting themselves, waiting their turn, cultivating patience, and learning to share will develop over time. With your encouragement, it can and will develop even faster.