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|4. Teach ownership
Toddlers have no concept of ownership. Everything belongs to a two-year-old. Between two and four a child can understand ownership (the toy belongs to someone else), but may not fully believe that the toy doesn't also belong to him. Even as young as two, begin teaching "mine" and "yours." During toddler toy squabbles the parent referee can award the toy to the rightful owner, but don't expect this concept to sink in fully until around the age of four. Look for other opportunities to reinforce the concept of ownership: "This toy belongs to Mary," "Here's Billy's teddy bear," "Whose shoes are these?" As the child grasps the idea of ownership and the rights that go along with it, teach the logical conclusion that ignoring these rights is wrong.
Correct wishful ownership. "It's mine," insists the four-year-old whose detective parents discover a suspicious toy in his backpack. "You wish the toy was yours," replies the parent. "But now tell daddy who this toy really belongs to." "Johnny," the child confesses. Capitalizing on this teachable moment you reply, "If Johnny took your toy, especially if it was one you really liked, you would feel very sad that your toy was missing. What would you want him to do?" The best way to teach lasting values is to draw the lessons out of a child rather than imposing them. You want the "give it back" idea to come from the child if at all possible.
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