Although a time for celebration, compassion and giving, the holidays, unfortunately, also can involve issues of ownership and possession, especially for children in the “terrible 2s” or thereabouts.
At the age of 2 or even 3, toddlers start to see themselves as individuals. They understand that I and we are how they identify themselves. Despite the importance of learning such pronouns, though, doing so has a downside; specifically, a child’s favorite word may become mine. This ranks as a normal stage of development, however, and although you shouldn’t interfere with such self-differentiation, you can take steps to teach your child or children how to share.
Consider, for instance, these four suggestions:
• Help your toddler to share by always being a good role model. (Being a role model, this column’s regular readers may have noted, remains a pretty consistent theme in raising children.)
• Share your own possessions, but most important, share your time and attention.
• Reassure your child where warranted. Recognize his or her feelings. He or she may truly fear never getting a shared toy returned, for instance.
• Talk about taking turns, and make sure your child has plenty of toys. That way, when the opportunity to share presents itself, there’s more to share and less to own. Also, make certain your child isn’t always forced to share; sharing should become a welcome choice rather than an unwanted obligation.
As your child grows and nears school age, consider this trio of additional suggestions:
• Teach negotiation tactics: “I’d like my turn.” “You can be next.”
• Teach that sharing encourages friendship and fun.
• Model and reinforce good sharing behavior, and allow children to work things out when they’re able.
So – sharing, in a nutshell. Imagine where we as a society would be today if some of our leaders had learned to work things out together as children!
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.