Teaching Your Toddler to Share

What is shared and what isn’t

At the heart of sharing is ownership, and the more dear the object, the harder it is to share. But not everything has to be shared. “I don’t think a toddler should have to share a blanket, favorite teddy bear or anything special,” says Craig. “Ever since my daughters were very little, I told them that they don’t have to share anything that’s new or special,” says Mary O’Neill, an attorney in Marina del Rey, Calif., and mother of 7-year-old twin girls and an 8-year-old daughter.

This rule is still in force at her house and keeps problems to a minimum. “Before any of them brings a friend over, I ask, ‘Is there anything you don’t want your friends to play with?’ And we put those things up in the closet. This avoids a lot of confl icts.” Parents of siblings need to set house rules about sharing early. “I try to have some areas of the living room where toys are communal property,” says Annie Lawson, an investment analyst in Somerville, Mass., and mother of two boys, ages 4 and 8. “And every car with wheels is jointly owned.

It’s up to them to work out who gets a turn with which toy,” she says, adding that each boy also has his own possessions that he doesn’t have to share with the other. Ownership at preschool could be defi ned as “it’s in my hand, so it’s mine,” says Tim Craig. Toddlers are initially appalled to learn that when they put a toy down, it’s fair open season for another child to begin playing with it. Whenever possible, Craig tries to use these emotional moments to help children come up with a solution that works for everyone, such as finding another truck, so both kids are satisfi ed. But it’s a rocky road getting to that place.