When my toddler first started socializing with other children, I was alarmed at how poorly she shared with other children. She would grab a toy from the hands of a baby. She would push another toddler out of the way to reach for a crayon. Although these behaviors are completely normal for developing toddlers, most parents want to teach their children to share with friends and playmates.
There are several reasons that a toddler may refuse to share with friends. Here are a few of the most common reasons.
1. She’s acting her age. If your 14-month-old refuses to share her beloved doll with an acquaintance, it’s not because she’s “bad”– it’s because she’s a toddler. Refusal to share is as universal in toddlers as tantrums, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your toddler clings to treasured objects in the presence of other children, it’s a sign that she’s beginning to comprehend the concept of personal possessions. This is a normal– even necessary– phase of development.
2. He hasn’t seen an example. If your toddler reaches for your cup of juice and you firmly say, “No, that’s mine,” he will quickly learn that it’s acceptable to deny others access to something that you are using. Set an example by sharing with your toddler whenever possible. If your child requests something that he can’t have, a good response might be, “No, you can’t drink my coffee, but I’ll share my toast with you.”
3. She doesn’t understand. The concept of sharing is very complex, and it takes many years for a child to fully understand the unwritten rules of the practice. Your toddler can’t understand why she should share her toy train but not her sippy-cup. She doesn’t understand why she can’t force another child to share by snatching it from his hand. It’ll be a while before your toddler masters this concept. Give it time.
4. He feels out of control. The world is a scary place for a toddler, and young children cling to their toys like talismans. If your toddler has an extremely strong– if unreasonable– attachment to a blanket, teddy or doll, let him have his way. It can be unnerving for a toddler to surrender the safety of this treasured object to an untrusted acquaintance. In these cases, it’s acceptable to allow your child to hide his most treasured toys before a friend visits.
5. She’s experimenting. The world is a constant science experiment to the inquisitive mind of a toddler. Your toddler might wonder how a friend reacts to sharing, or to not sharing. He wants to see what happens when he snatches a rattle from a baby. Is it okay to take the crayons his friend isn’t using? Your toddler might refuse to share with friends just to figure out what happens. She will gradually learn, with your guidance, that sharing makes play more fun for everyone involved.
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