Sharing Is Hard For Toddlers

By  on May 01, 2007
Shoving matches over who gets the fire truck are common enough between toddlers, but 19-month-old Katie took it to a new level at daycare recently. After enjoying a pretend tea party alongside her friend Ella, Katie wasnt ready to stop playing. When Ellas mom came to pick up her daughter at the end of the day, she was taken aback when Katie clung to Ella fiercely declaring, Mine!

SHARING IS HARD FOR TODDLERS
Possessiveness, rational or otherwise, peaks in the toddler years, often turning playtime into a pint-sized battleground. While most toddlers enjoy the company of other children their own age, they are more successful at parallel play, where they do the same activity or copy each others actions but dont necessarily directly interact. In other words, they like being near each other but not too close! The idea of sharing toys or favourite people is difficult for toddlers to grasp. To a two-year-old, possession is ownership, however temporary. Ignoring a flare-up or leaving toddlers to solve it on their own doesnt work because they simply dont have the verbal or social skills needed to work through a dispute. Toddlers need a little help to solve their squabbles. This, in turn, gives them the skills they need to work out their own problems down the road.

HELP TODDLERS DEAL WITH FRUSTRATION
Fortunately, toddlers are also developing an understanding of other peoples feelings at the same time theyre battling for everything within their reach. So when Ellas mommy explained that she understood how Katie felt, but that Ella was hungry and needed to go home for dinner, Katie was able to let Ella go peacefully. Not all toddlers are so agreeable. Some are noticeably more aggressive than others, resorting to hitting or breaking things when they dont get their way. But when 22-month-old Evan clobbers his friend, Harry, because he wants a turn on Harrys tricycle, it doesnt mean hes headed for the Hells Angels. He may be hungry, overtired or not able to use words yet to express his feelings all factors that can affect his behaviour. Research also shows that children who are spanked are more likely to hit or become aggressive themselves. Knowing when and how to step in without getting angry yourself can help toddlers develop empathy, self-control and lifelong interpersonal skills.

NIP AGGRESSION IN THE BUD
"Children need to understand that aggression isnt an acceptable way to deal with frustration," says Jennifer Brace, an elementary school teacher in Mississauga, Ont. and mother of four-year-old Nathaniel and two-year-old Kirsten. "Let kids know what your limits are. It's important to set clear boundaries ahead of time such as no hitting, grabbing, biting, yelling or breaking things." Jennifer, who has also worked in early childcare, suggests stepping in with toddlers before the situation escalates out of control.
"Sometimes simply redirecting the children to another interest works," says Jennifer. "It's important to stay calm and keep your voice even. Youre not going to solve anything by getting angry and shouting."

    Toddlers need to learn how to resolve disputes before they can do it for them- selves. "You need to be their model several times to show them how to share," says Jennifer. "Once they understand the concept of sharing and taking turns, you can gently remind them, 'Remember how we solved this last time?' Then, as they get older, you can step back a bit and let them try their problem-solving skills. If you step in too early, they wont have a chance to figure it out for themselves."

    By working through the conflict with them, toddlers learn problem-solving skills as well as developing a sense of fair play. But dont be discouraged if youre not successful every time.
"Sometimes, despite your best efforts, nothing works", says Jennifer. "Kids are going to be kids. If the situation is just too emotional, you may have to remove that toy and replace it with a new toy and a fresh start." PC



May 01, 2007

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