Have you ever struggled with toddlers fighting over a toy? Here are 5 simple strategies for parents (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) what to do when there seems to be a conflict between toddlers over resources (toy, food, hat, shoe, book, etc.).
5 Simple Strategies for Toys Sharing
1. Do nothing
Let toddlers solve their problems by themselves (unless there is violence).
PROS: Encourages child's independence and social skills.
CONS: Observe. Late intervention might lead to toddler's being hurt e.g. bitten.
2. Guard Toy Owner’s Right
Make sure that toy’s owner can play with the toy for as long as she wants. If there is no “real” owner, it is whoever got the toy first.
3. Suggest to Play Together
This strategy may work well with some toys e.g. ball. Be playful and creative – think of ways to play together.
PROS: Encourages creativity and socialising with other children.
CONS: In the long term toddlers may expect reciprocity and get upset when other children won’t share this way.
4. Encourage to Take Turns
You are putting yourself in “policemen” shoes as you will have to make sure that turns are taken fairly.
PROS: Teaches investing in long term reciprocal relationships. Especially if toddlers are colleagues.
CONS: Parent’s full involvement is needed. Which might lead to co-dependency in social situations.
5. Ask to Share the Toy
If you are asking nicely it may be taken by the toddler as good suggestion. If you’re demanding it’s clearly authoritarian approach.
PROS: This strategy work well if toddlers who have dispute are colleagues. It may be a compromise accepted by toddlers and seen as fair resolution.
CONS: May teach submission to authority, if you’re demanding. And that ownership right is not always respected. You are also risking turning yourself into your child's foe and not an ally anymore. This strategy might lead to your child not respecting property of others. Please mind that child can feel less important if someone else gets priority.
Research Shows Toddlers Do Share
While observing your toddler you may sometimes conclude that kids are self-oriented creatures not willing to share. However research conducted at University of Pittsburgh shows that in fact toddlers are willing to share.
The study involved observing children aged 18 and 24 months on 6 tasks. On each of those task child was observed if she shared the item she played or interacted with. On first task 76% of 2 years old toddlers shared voluntarily, without request, comparison to 29% of 1.5 years olds. Older toddlers shared more promptly and more often than younger children. At the end of all 6 tasks 96% of 2 years olds and 65% of 1.5 years olds shared at least once including when requested.
Looking at those numbers you may think that those little creatures are not that selfish after all! As parents we may better remember those situations when there was a conflict and crying rather than those when toddlers played and shared toys without tears, screaming and asking for help. This research is quite encouraging to leave our toddlers be when they play and not to breath down their neck when other kids are around reaching out for their toys.
What Should I Do? Whose Problem Is It Anyway?
It is stressful time for a parent or anyone taking care of the toddler finding themselves in the middle of the toy war. But in fact are they in the middle? At times it may be very liberating to ask yourself whose problem is it anyway. Is it your problem? Your toddler's problem? Is it even a problem? What may be helpful is looking into Thomas Gordon's philosophy and thinking through who really owns the problem. It is sometimes tempting to jump and "rescue" our little one or just support them in difficult social situations. However it may give our kids more confidence when we give them freedom to learn social interactions and solve their problems by themselves. It is amazing how things may turn out. Toddlers are wonderful little human beings.
Toddlers Are Learning To Share
Lastly, please remember, that toddlers are just learning to clearly communicate and interact in social situations. At times it may be challenging for you and your little one but those, stressful situations, when toddlers show their interest in an item someone else is playing with, are also lessons. By intervening we may deprive our children this precious learning time. We can help our toddlers by modeling and giving them examples as Janet Lansbury, author of "Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting", pointed out. So if you want your toddler to share, then share. If you want your toddler to respect someone's property, then give them example.
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