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Please help. How to teach my 28 month old toddler to share

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

I am literally stressed out. I have a 28 month old who completely refuses to part with the things
(his cars,blanket and cars) that he is playing with. Ours is a joint family. My niece(18 months) and my nephew(3 yr old) stay with us too. They don't have this sharing issue. The day care lady says my son is well behaved at day care and listens to her.

I have tried giving him timeouts(3 min timeouts), telling him lovingly and encouraging him when he does share during a very few instances. Otherwise he is a good kid.

Is his behavior because of the fact that he doesn't relate to them as siblings. He does not take/snatch others toys but if my niece or nephew touch his things he goes berserk and cries a lot. It takes some time before he calms down.

Is he doing this on purpose. Right now he has the tag of being extremely selfish by everyone including my husband. I am really embarasssed with this. Will he remain selfish all his life?

I am really scared that he will become selfish when he becomes big too. Will i be needing some professional help in changing him.

Any advice highly appreciated.

post #2 of 12

This is really normal two year-old behavior.  I would not worry about his long-term moral development, or needing professional help. Your niece and nephew might be easygoing.  The three year-old might be a little more mature.  Or they might just be in between territorial phases.  You don't say how long they've been staying with you - you might all still be in an adjustment phase.  I would worry about people judging a 28-month old as "extremely selfish" on the basis that he's not that good at sharing.  Those people need to get a clue and chill out, and I would tell them so in no uncertain terms. 


Your DS might behave this way to your niece and nephew BECAUSE he relates to them as siblings (it is certainly behavior I have observed between my kids).  The kids at daycare aren't playing with "his" stuff, and won't follow him home and compete for your attention.  Also, it's really common for toddlers this age to be angels at daycare and then misbehave and pitch fits in "safe space", aka, at home.  They know they're unconditionally loved at home, so they can let it all hang out. 


If this behavior is in regards only to specific stuff, like a favorite blanket or stuffy, and his attachment to this stuff is consistent, it might be worthwhile to find a way to set it aside for him, and help him feel secure by protecting his lovey.  We had some luck with helping our DS put aside his favorite special stuffy on his bed, where it would wait for him, and no one would touch it.  When he got a little older, he had a try at claiming that all the things were his special favorite thing, and we needed to talk again about how it's more fun to play when we share.


There are a couple of tactics that I use with kids who aren't sharing.  There's the offer of solo play (which, sadly, is in your room, kiddo, with only the toys that are already there, and may be a better tactic with slightly older kids).  There's "we have plenty of cars/crayons/blankets/couch cushions for everyone to play with some."  There's putting the contested items away on a high shelf for a set period of time (better when more than one kid is kicking up a fuss).  There's changing the subject - "whoa, is it snacktime?", and picking play environments with limited sharing issues (the playground, the beach).  There's the occasional maternal eyeroll ("'sharing' is not just about you getting their stuff").

post #3 of 12

Sorry you are feeling stressed. I so know the feeling. Another member of this site recommended a site to me called ahaparenting. Here is a link to an article on toddler social interaction and sharing that I found really, really enlightening and made me feel so much better. Hope there is something in it that you find helpful, too. Mostly, i would just like to emphasize that it's completely normal toddler behavior and he WILL grow out of it. Anyway, here's the link:



post #4 of 12

This is normal development and not negative behavior.


Is there a particular reason why you thinking sharing is important behavior at this age. Sharing, more often than not, means a child is forced to disgorge something they are enjoying. This is a core questions for parents at preschool interview and the "correct" answer at play-based schools is that sharing isn't really important, learning to take turns and understanding someone else's feelings is...

post #5 of 12

Oh boy I have this issue too. My son hates sharing and throws terrible fits when he can't play with whatever he wants to play with. I don't really understand the difference between sharing vs taking turns. To me they are the same thing. I try distraction and it works but only sometimes. I try offering different toys and that works sometimes. I use time outs sometimes if he does something mean-spirited to another kid to "protect" his stuff (like pushing). I remove him from the situation sometimes (today we just left a playgroup early because he was throwing fits - I didn't even say bye to anyone, just up and left). It's very frustrating really. I guess the real solution is to try to limit times when this behavior is necessary and to model sharing so he sees it as something normal and good.

post #6 of 12

I agree with the above posters.  Very normal! Since it is only at your house, I would guess that he feels threatened/not secure with ownership...in order to give things up, they need to understand ownership.  Sharing doesn't mean giving up a toy just because someone else wants it.  When I was watching a friend's daughter (she was 2.5, and my son is 1.5), I told her that it was her job to teach my son how to share.  So, for example, if she grabbed at toys from him, he would learn that it was okay to grab from her.  If she was patient and waited to take turns, then he would learn that too.  Maybe it was a fluke, but it worked really well.  Once she stopped grabbing at his stuff, he was secure enough to let her use it.  You could try asking your son to teach the 18 month old how to take turns.  It's tough navigating these things, but it's very normal. 

post #7 of 12

For us, we taught our DD to take turns instead of share.

The difference for us is that taking turns means that you get your turn, you allow someone else to get their turn and then maybe you even get a turn again. That ownership still stays with the person that owns it, and that letting someone else use something doesn't mean that you will not get to use it again.


We also allow our DD to not have to give up the possession right away just because someone else wants a turn. We taught her to say "I am having a turn right now and then you can have a turn". And then we allow her to finish her "turn" and encourage her to allow the other kid a turn.

It also has helped to teach her patience with other things, like waiting her turn to go down the slide or use the water fountain at the park instead of barge to the front.

post #8 of 12

Agree with most of the PPs-this is very normal, and he probably only does it at home because he relates to his cousins more as siblings.  Both my dd and ds generally show their more possessive sides at home and particularly with each other.  Calling a 2-year-old selfish because he doesn't like to share is a little...much :) This is a totally normal stage of development.  Obviously if you encourage him never to share it might be a problem, but this doesn't seem to be the case!  Last time we had another 2-year-old friend over, ds followed her around trying to grab everything out of her hands and screaming "mine!"  I would probably have a hard time if another adult came to my house and started getting into all my stuff too :), but he is not anywhere near that level when out in public and I very rarely see him grab from a strange kid. 


We also encourage taking turns rather than "sharing."  I think taking turns is just a little more clear.  If he is snatching toys away, I tell him to put out his hand and say please (he doesn't talk very much yet, otherwise I would encourage him to ask for the toy nicely).  The person playing with the toy does NOT have to immediately hand the toy over, but I remind (usually dd) that when she is done, it is ds' turn.  More often than not, she quickly passes the toy over without a problem.  If ds freaks out at waiting, I have to sit with him to make sure he doesn't grab it away (which will generally cause dd to never want to let go of it ever again! :) and keep reminding him that he will get a turn next.


If he has a toy that dd wants, we just do the same thing in reverse, although it will often take much longer for ds to give it up-sometimes he surprises me though and is happy to take turns with his sister, particularly if it is an activity rather than just a toy (i.e. taking turns on the mini trampoline as opposed to taking turns with a doll). 


Be patient-this too shall pass :)

post #9 of 12

This is normal. Actually, in my experience, I see that children who have other children around (daycare peers, siblings, cousins) tend to have more of an issue with property than the ones who are living blissfully unaware of territory struggle around adults who don't challenge that. So I would say that being territorial is actually a skill that your son is working on and it is good for him.


He is working on big emotions, it is threatening to lose something you enjoy, it is difficult to assert yourself around others. It, in no ways, means that he is or will be a selfish person. 


Sharing is a social grace, sharing makes the interactions more pleasant. He can have more fun when he learns to share. So yes, you can help him learn. I'm not an experienced mom but I have read and observed soooo much, I will share what I think may help.


If the object is only one, it is not sharing. it is taking turns. You can intervene, tell the child who is wanting your son's object that he is taking his turn and tell your son that when he is done with his turn, he can give it to lil cousin. Well ,between the mood and personality of both children, it can go great or it can go wrong. You can help guiding him when it is time to pass on the toy. But ultimately, he does not HAVE to share. He is playing with it. He will share when he is ready. Is he jumping from toy to toy, blocking the other children from using any and all of them? Talk to him when the children are not there. About how fun his toys are and how glad his cousins get when they can play with them. Prepare him in advance and praise him afterwards.


DS has been easy in sharing and taking turns, but that is because he is an only child and learned with adults who were very patient and respectful of his emotions (unlike your DS little friends, who are probably, snatching, demanding...). He is now your DS exact age and started being more difficult with sharing. After a lil struggle, he listens to my guidance and gives the toy, himself, to the other child's hands but in tears.


I noticed that if I try too hard to convince him, it backfires. He becomes more possessive if I talk too much about it. It is like if I turned against him, so now he has to protect  his stuff with all his might.hopmad.gif  When I took it from his hands myself, he was inconsolable. He needs to be in control, then it is easier to get him to share. 


Model sharing between you and him, say a lot of: "thank you!, I am so happy you lent me your..., oh it makes me so happy that you gave me a bite of your banana" and so on.


Don't be embarrassed, your son deserves the time he needs to learn. Other people don't have the right to project anything on him or to define what is the right time for him to learn a new skill. 

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


Thank you for all the reassuring and wonderful suggestions. I will implement all the techniques that you have shared with me. 


Things got a bit overwhelming for me last week. Usually men have very short patience specturm so even when my husband and my brother in law labeled my son as "shelfish" i was not bothered so much.


But off late i see my sister-in-law/co-sister doing that , she being a mother too. And its very depressing thinking i am failing as a mother. I keep telling them this is normal and my DS will learn as he grows big. But i was scolded back saying that i am not able to digest or accept the fact that he is selfish since i am his mother. But it feels so ridiculous when they label my son like that. And it is not just with him, I get angry when people talk/label small kids who are of that tender age.


A little abt the background :


In the past my parents acted a bit selfish and with that in mind my husband and my BIL say that my son has inherited that selfishness. So whenever my son does not share immediately the comparison with my parents starts and i end up being depressed because now they are talking bad about my parents and my son. I agree what my parents did was wrong but i have forgiven them and accepted them for who they are. But comparing their selfishness with my toddler unwillingness to share sounds a bit ridiculous to me. Please correct me if I am wrong.

post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by nebula228 View Post
A little abt the background :


In the past my parents acted a bit selfish and with that in mind my husband and my BIL say that my son has inherited that selfishness. So whenever my son does not share immediately the comparison with my parents starts and i end up being depressed because now they are talking bad about my parents and my son. I agree what my parents did was wrong but i have forgiven them and accepted them for who they are. But comparing their selfishness with my toddler unwillingness to share sounds a bit ridiculous to me. Please correct me if I am wrong.


You're not wrong.


Raising children inevitably brings up all the baggage that we carry about our own parents.  It brings up every hope and fear that we have ever had about the kinds of people we are ourselves, and the kinds of people we hope our children will be.


The important thing is to remember that this baggage is OURS, not our children's, and that children are children.  We can't judge children, who haven't yet reached the age of reason, the way we judge adults.  In my opinion, it can be terribly cruel to take children too seriously:  a moment is just a moment. 


And men can be patient!  They have just as much access to that piece of will-power as women do. 

post #12 of 12

I recently noticed that my DS is running up to kids and saying "I sharing this now?"  and pointing to a desired object... I didn't really put two and two together until today when I asked him "Hey little Bug, do you wanna come and share this with me?"  Maybe think about "sharing" all that you have to offer him... instead of making lunch and putting it on the table, ask "Would you like to come share some soup with me?"  Even better if you are asking everyone.  I didn't realize, but we share everything (even so-called chores).  It makes life fun.


As to your family... I am sorry that you don't have more support.  Maybe you could ask your SIL and co-sis to "share" their insights.  Criticism sure doesn't make for better parenting or relationships in your tribe.  Let them know that their words/labels are not helping you or your DS to move past this stage.  And if they are using these labels around their kids... doesn't that just teach children that labels are okay. 


Another thing...  Do the other kids care or react to his crying?  Or is just the parents?  Sometimes, I just let the LOs try and work it out for themselves.  I interject if there is snatching or pushing or anything like that, but only with "No, pushing is NOT okay".  Maybe if he sees that no one wants to play with him or his stuff if he's hollering and carrying on, maybe then...


GOod luck!

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