It’s a situation mothers stand confused and embarrassed in the face of. No attempts to explain to the child help, and no reprimand works.
When a child refuses to share a toy with others, it’s simply because they’re defending what they consider an “extension of themselves,” and accepting to share that toy with others means, for them, that they’ve given up “a piece of themselves.”
The truth is that children under age three tend to consider every one of their toys their personal property, even in public play spaces, where they refuse to share them even with a friend. Therefore, quarrels among children are usually about ownership of things or games.
How can a mother behave in a situation like this?
- At home, have them choose the toys and things that they like a lot, and agree with them that these are “just theirs” and will not be shared with anyone.
In turn, explain to them that it’s all right if some of the other toys are shared with the friends they love.
- Don’t force them to share with other children when they refuse, but show them how wonderful it is to share by saying, “Okay, you can play with your truck now, but it’s all right if you lend it to your friend when you’re done.” When they do, hug them and say, “Look how happy he is that you lent him the truck!”
- Lay down a few rules for shared playtime, by saying, for example, “You can take the toy that no one is playing with; otherwise, you have to ask your friend to lend you the toy they have. If they do, lend them the toy of yours that they pick out.”
- Use a timer if the competition for a toy gets heated between your child and another child. Tell them that each of them will have the toy for five minutes and will then give it to the other. Let the beeping of the timer judge between them. Children under three years old may not understand sharing, but they may like the game of exchanging toys at a certain time.
- If the children continue to quarrel over the toy, take it away and say that they’ll have to make do with the other toys; then they’ll be obliged to accept the principle of sharing because they’ll find that it’s in their best interest.
- Remember that you have to set a good example for your child on the subject of sharing, by dividing a sandwich with their father in the presence of the child, for example, or drawing their attention to your neighbor’s intentions, saying “Look, our neighbor will take the vacuum cleaner and will return it to us in a little while.”