When our toddler does something good like pack away her toys, show Daddy her artwork or “help” Mommy in the kitchen, hubby and I feel so blessed. We feel really good about our parenting skills and believe that we are raising her right. That is until she brings us back to earth with something totally out of character like not sharing her toys or even taking toys from other kids in playschool. Apart from not sharing, she will express it in full sentences, “Uhhm Mommy, I do not like to share” or “I do not like to share with baby.” She not only acts on it she explicitly explains it to adults around, there’s no hiding from her sharing issues. When our toddler “misbehaves” I have to admit that I get embarrassed, I often end up apologizing to other parents and I begin to think that I have an evil spawn in my hands.
2. Build toddler’s self-esteem, a secure child is more likely to learn sharing and socializing more than an insecure one. Praise her “sharing behavior”, when Sofie gives me a bite of her cookie, I say “Thanks for sharing Sofie, that is very nice”. This is a good step for us, she is already sharing with Mommy and Daddy, the next project is to get her to share with other kids.
3. Don’t push just guide. When I get embarrassed about her behavior, my initial thought is to just command her to share, but this only results in a meltdown. She freaks because she thinks that I am not on her side because I want her to give the toy away. Now I don’t force her anymore, I say “I know you like playing with this toy, but it’s more fun if you play together with Playmate #1.” or “When you do not share it makes people sad, it’s rude and hurts peoples feelings.”
4. Explain to your toddler the concept of borrowing and taking turns. Daddy and I showed her how we “borrow” and “take turns” with one of her toys and she slowly grasped the concept that borrowing is not a permanent thing and that she will get her toy back. Of course this takes a little more work and does not happen overnight. Being away from a favorite toy for 5 minutes can seem like a lifetime when you are a pint-sized diva.
5. It easy to think that you are being a bad parent but the truth is, not sharing is a toddler’s way of learning about ownership. Do not be embarrassed about it but do work on correcting the behavior. According to some of the books I’ve read, being possessive is actually the first step in learning how to share so go with it and guide your kid. Trying to teach your kid to share and expecting her to learn it in a few days is like trying to punch the moon. It takes time and consistency to learn this behavior, it is so difficult that some adults don’t even know how to do it.
These are tips you could use to build good behavior over time, it’s not a magic trick and no book or blog can make your child “perfect” just like that. It’s human nature and not instant coffee folks.
Want more insight into your toddler’s sharing behavior? Read 8 Rules of Toddler Play.