Sharing and Taking Away

I have read your book & some of your articles. I’m wondering what to do when it comes to sharing. My children range in the ages of 5 & 2 years. I never tell my children they need to share what they are playing with. If a sibling wants it, I try to validate the feelings & ask the other child when he/she is done with it if the one without it can play with it. My concern is that when one child is playing with a toy & then sets it down, time goes by – at least a half hour or more – before a different child will pick up the toy and begin to play with it, & then the first child will see that & scream & take it away saying that he/she was playing with it. Or, the other thing that happens is my youngest will pick up a toy & play with it for a considerable amount of time then my oldest will see her happily playing & then say, “Hey, that’s mine!!” – and it really is his. He’ll grab it & take it away from her leaving her crying & wondering what happened. I don’t know what to do on these two things. Any suggestions??

My first thought is to provide fewer toys and more experiences that put less value on things and more on feelings, arts and most of all, human connection. Children value things so highly because they have become to some degree the center of their lives. Notice that children fight very rarely when they hike, sing, dance, dig, run, or listen to us read or tell stories. Toys have become a bit like TV in our lives; a baby sitter to keep the children busy. 

The more you offer human connection based activities, the less the children will fight over sharing. In other words, I am asking you to be with them rather than let toys entertain them as much as possible (which I am sure is not always easy.)

Here are a few suggestions for times that children do play with toys:

1) Minimize ownership: Many toys can belong to the house for everyone to enjoy.

Watch what you model as well. Be less serious about things and ownership and more communcal.

2) Give your son a safe area to store and play with personal things, protected from his sister. You can all be in the same room while you provide a wooden fence/gate to protect your son.

3) Help your son put things away where his sister cannot reach.

4) Have multi materials toys as much as possible, like blocks, crayons, leggo etc. 

5) When buying toys that is a single item (doll, car, ball) get two identical ones of each.

6) Provide art supplies.

7) Provide outdoors time.

8) Create (mostly your son) agreements about use of toys. For example:

• If I leave the toy and start playing something else, the toy can be used by my sister.

• If I leave but plan to come back, I let mom and my sister know that I am not done. You can put a protection around the toy, or a sign that says “In Use.” Take care that your daughter stays away from it.

In summary, protect your son’s autonomy and right to his property; put more value on experiences that involve no toys at all, and what toys you have, have in abundance.

When grabbing does occur, continue with what you have been doing based on my book. Validate the feelings of the child whose toy was taken, listen, hug and she will move on.

Warmly,  Naomi Alodrt



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