Hello Naomi, Yesterday my 21-month old daughter and I went to a family gathering and I encountered a situation that has left me feeling uncomfortable with the way I chose to handle it and I would like your insight. It involves my sisters two boys, one is 4 and the other is 5-years old. My parents have bought each of these boys the same toys and they keep them in their home along with a lot of other toys. My daughter wanted to explore these toys but was met with screaming and the pulling of these toys out of her hands (which I did not like). Now apparently these toys have been purchased specifically for each of these boys so the boys label them as “theirs”. I can understand this behavior and do not see it as selfish per say, if my daughter did not want to share her toys I would not make her do so. My first question is how would you handle this situation while keeping all of the children’s needs in mind? I asked the little boy to not pull toys out of my daughters hand, talked to my daughter about him not wanting to share his toys right now, listened to the little boys reason for not wanting to share and then found something else for my daughter and I to play with and went outside to remove both of us from the toy situation. I still feel sick about this. I am concerned that I did not stand up for my daughter, that I let her get walked on. For the rest of the day my daughter would point to their toys and say “No”. My heart would break when she did this. A second part to this situation is that I find myself wanting to avoid family gatherings all together. I don’t like all of the toys, as we do not have a lot at home. I don’t like the sponge bob cartoons blaring on the TV or the video game exposure and I also don’t like my daughter being around kids like my nephews. How would you handle this situation? Thank you.
What you did was exactly what I would suggest that you do. Your anxiety is your own need for your daughter to have what she wants. Meanwhile, she can handle not getting what she wants. You have taken care of her and showed her how to live with reality and not fight against it; a beautiful and powerful lesson. There is no harm in her experience. Wanting toys and feeling disappointed is part of life and you have empowered her to move on. She was most likely at peace about it. However, sensing your upset she kept pointing and saying “no,” mirroring your anxiety.
I therefore suggest that you do the same thing next time, but stay happy. If she points and says, “no” just keep a benign and happy attitude. You can validate with, “Yes, not this toy. I know you like it.” She looks to you to know if something “sad” happened, or not.
Avoiding such gatherings is the only solution I have found that kept our children protected from commercial influences and peer dynamics. Our children enjoyed the more intimate visits we created, with one family or a friend at a time, in an environment free of media, junk food and gadgets.
You won’t be able to shield your child from such experiences, but you can certainly make them less frequent. Surprises will still occur and with the wise response you demonstrated, your daughter will learn to be at peace with reality.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com