I have a son who's almost 2.5 and a daughter who's 6 months. We escaped jealousy up until now, but it's hit us hard lately. Every time the baby is playing with a toy, my son wants to take it away. All along we've been doing the "trade" concept, where if he wants to play with a toy, he needs to give the baby a different one. But it's not working anymore. He doesn't want to give her a different toy. And he doesn't even want to play with the toys he's taking - he just wants to put them away so she can't have them. It doesn't matter if she has one of his favorite things or something very babyish that he never uses on his own.
Of course, we tell him he can't do this, and he screams and tantrums and keeps trying to do it. I'm struggling a bit with how to come up with appropriate rules and consequences around this behavior.
I'm in the midst of this struggle now with my walking 9 month old and 3 year old. Mostly what you're saying just sounds like my first DD, sans sister, at 2.5 IT was a tough age. Just keeping going is about all I can say sadly. Maybe have a few special toys he can control, but otherwise 'we share the toys in this house'
I've been going through this too with my two boys. DS1 is almost 3, DS2 is 9 months.
DS1 really wasn't capable of sharing 6 months ago. He seems to have recently gone through a developmental jump, and spent pretty much the whole day yesterday co-operatively playing with his cousin who is 2 weeks younger than him. It does get easier, just be persistent in gently reinforcing the whole concept of trading. 2.5 was for us prime tantrum time as well. DS1 seems to have mellowed a bit. (I say this, yet it took an hour of screaming this morning to get him dressed to go to the park and library )
What I have found helpful is to give DS1 space to play uninterrupted by his little brother. If he gets his own space (up on the table, or in a different room), then he is much more likely to let DS2 have whatever toy he is playing with. I think as much as I would love them to share everything equally and peacefully, DS1 really needs to have things and spaces he calls 'his own'. We cosleep, so he doesn't have his own bedroom. The playroom is also the living room. So he doesn't have anything that 'belongs' to him per se, he just needs his own space to do his own thing.
For us, snatching toys from other children is unacceptable. We don't do consequences, other than it is gently taken from the snatcher and given back to the snatchee. I am developing patience
Hope this helps - hang in there mama!
photoshoplifter: That's an interesting strategy, but seems much more geared to disputes between children of similar age. My 6 month old is never going to "decide to share". She's going to play with whatever is sitting within reach, until someone puts something new next to her, and she decides it's more interesting to drop the first thing and pick up the second one. And she doesn't really care what it is. So that's why I've been insisting that the toddler swap toys with her, but it does leave him in charge of the whole thing, even when he complies. It probably is true that the toddler needs a bit more mommy time. I'm happy to play with him and engage with him in most games, but lately all he wants to do is climb on me and pull on me every second of the day, which drives me nuts, and I have to try to be patient with him.
Ilovesunshine: My older one doesn't really have his own space either (we live in a one room house). Except that he's perfectly capable of going anywhere in the room, climbing up on chairs to use the table, etc... The baby doesn't crawl yet, so it's not hard to get away from her. Maybe I should just always give the baby back a snatched toy. But usually, the only reason she has a certain toy is that I happened to hand it to her. And usually, she could care less which toy she has. So if my son really wants to play with a particular thing, it seems reasonable. But if he just wants to deprive his sister out of spite, it doesn't.
I've had a little luck lately insisting he give a snatched toy back once he's done with it. Often it's pretty quick when he realizes he doesn't want to play with a baby rattle after all.
I agree with you that the strategy posted by photoshoplifter is geared more to interactions between similar aged children - it seems as though it would work well for my DS1 and his cousin, not so well between DS1 and DS2. Also, I have to say that the guidance may be written for preschool age children - the dynamics change totally between 2 to 3 to 4 years old.
Asking your son to give the toy back when he is done with it is a good idea too, although I would personally be concerned that he would then assume he could take toys away whenever he wanted to, so long as he gave them back again. At least that is what my son would do.
I guess it all boils down to how important to you the whole issue is, and the personalities of your children. Is this something that you feel the need to make a concrete rule over? Or is it something that you can assess on a case by case basis? Is your son a child that will feel more secure if there is a specific rule and consequence (i.e. 'We do not take toys from other children. You need to give that toy back'). Or is your son the kind of child who will see this as another boundary to be pushed (DS1 is a boundary pusher, intense child. DS2 seems so far to be way more laid back).
In any case, I think at this age all we can do as parents is be as consistent as we can, and remember that yes, they may have heard the rule 1000 times before, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they remember it in the heat of the moment.
It does seem like concrete rules help my son, which is why I'm struggling to come up with a good one. He usually will follow rules if reminded (most of the time), and likes exploring the precise "letter of the law". For example, we taught him that high-pitched shrieking noises are "not for inside", and now he insists that any time he's outside (even on my back) he can shriek as much as he wants. He does better when he knows what's allowed, and why. But he will hold us to exactly what we say, so I need to choose my rule carefully. I've already regretted things I've told him without thinking through all the implications first!
Can he have a special box for HIS toys and a box for HER toys and he can then safely tuck away and keep to himself HIS toys, and the baby is not allowed to touch those unless he gives permission? he may be feeling a need for a little control over the situation and rightfully becoming aware that she is now entering a more destructuve phase and will soon be capable of breaking things he cares about. Maybe you two can go through the house and decide which toys he ready to relinquish to his baby sister and which toys he is okay with sharing and which toys he would genuinely like to have be off limits. It might give him a chance to be the big brother.
We are in similar spot. Sometimes our older kid will trade and give a toy in exchange for the one he takes (and mostly baby is not picky). But not always. And he will take crap toys, like a rattle, too, which I know he does not care about.
I tried setting aside some toys that are his only, so he does not have to share with baby. He will sometimes give the baby those toys out of the blue.
I don't have advice - it does not seem like anything I come up with works - I just end up refereeing all day.
My new rule is that he can't take a toy if baby has it, period. No exceptions. I'll take it away and he will have a meltdown. I hate this, but really running out of ideas.
Some days it is bad and I take the toy back and he just shrugs it off. Other days, he screams for days.
My children are almost the same age as yours- almost 2.5 and 5 months. We have the same issue. I don't do much about it- it doesn't seem to be a big problem yet. It sort of depends on the case, but I'll usually say something to DD1 when she takes a toy from DD2, but I try to keep it at the observation level- "you took the toy from DD2, and she was playing with that. what is she going to play with now? will she be sad?" Or something like that. Occasionally I ask her to give the toy back, if there are no other baby toys handy and DD2 seemed to need the toy. I'd say she agrees maybe 50% of the time, and sometimes she'll get a different toy for DD2. The thing is, that DD1 also spontaneously plays with DD2 sometimes, and I'm so encouraged by that so I don't get on her case about the little transgressions. I'm trying to put money in the bank to prevent resentment later on. I really only step in if DD1 is doing something to seriously annoy DD2, or something that might hurt her. Right now DD2 is so fascinated by DD1 that she loves any attention, even toy snatching. So I guess I don't have it so bad...
I have to say, on a different note, that I found the article posted by photoshoplifter to be really compelling, and I think that although it doesn't apply directly to this age it still has certain lessons... it is true that my daughter does more snatching if she's not getting enough attention from me, and if she's in a crappy mood. The thing about feeling secure really makes sense to me because I've noticed that for the first 30 minutes or so of any playdate she and her friend are usually in a constant battle over toys, but after they have been together for a while they calm down and share more. Unless it's close to nap time, then all bets are off. I've also noticed that my daughter generally could care less about any object, she's more interested in the interactions. So she will purposefully chase a child around the room over a doll that she doesn't really want.. she just likes the chase. And I don't know if this is a connection issue, she seems to be having fun. It bothers me though that she does it even when the chasee is terrified (unfortunately my 2.5 year old daughter is taller than most 3.5 year olds, so she dwarfs her same-age friends, and she has started to use this physical advantage).
Are all the baby toys formerly ds's? I might consider picking up some thrift store baby toys, declaring them dd's and then trying to go back to trading. Possibly ds would be interested in checking out dd's new toys and will trade his back to her. Or he won't be interested and will leave her alone. If he takes them away, he'll understand (even if he protests) when you help him give them back since they were always hers. Generally, I don't think buying more toys is a good solution, but with these ages and if ds feels dd is taking over his stuff, it might be enough to get over the hump. They say kids have to master ownership before they can master sharing.
Hi, after reading some of the additional posts I just wanted to reiterate the point of the post I made earlier.
The bottom line is: it ain't about the toy/object of desire. It's about the re-establishing a connection.
When solutions are used in sibling disputes (no matter the age) that involve only addressing the behavior and not the need behind the behavior, the need continues to go unmet and will resurface again (sometimes in new and interesting ways!). By offering a connection with your child as a solution to the unnerving behavior actually helps to meet the need of the child (and doesn't "reinforce" bad behavior as is commonly misunderstood). The child, for his or her part, is doing the best they can to express that need for connection in the only ways they know how (i.e. through acts of aggression, grabbing, etc.).
I understand how many parents would be skeptical of this approach. It's defies conventional thought. It's not a quick and easy fix. (Nor does it translate well into a pithy two paragraph post!). As Alfie Kohn points out, "working with" children is always more difficult than "doing things to" children. Working with children by building connection, play-listening, and stay-listening - unlike "logical consequences" or "imposing rules" - takes valuable time, concentration, and tremendous patience. As a parent I know how often these are in short supply!
Still, these are the only solutions that have worked for me and my family. And to not be in daily conflict or a power struggle with my child and others is a great blessing! Hope this helps.
My 3 year old does this to my 9 month old all the time. I just take it back and give it to the baby. I say, "It makes her sad when you take away something she's playing with. I'm going to give it back to her." Then I let her have her tantrum. Rinse and repeat.