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It's Mine! Teaching Your Child to Share


It’s MINE! Teaching Your Child to Share 

Jenny had been looking forward to seeing her friend and letting their two-year-old children Abigail and Isaac play together, but the visit deteriorated quickly. No matter what toy Isaac picked up, Abigail grabbed it away shouting, “Mine!” She even pushed Isaac when he turned his back to her to protect the toy in his hand.  Jenny was mortified by Abigail’s behavior. When she contacted us Lynn and I assured her, Abigail was not being aggressive, but she was being two. The ability to share is a developmental task. Just like learning to army crawl, then creep leads to walking, there are distinctive steps to the ultimate goal of sharing.  Awareness of those steps combined with a recognition of what your child presently is able to do allows you to develop a plan to gently strengthen the skills to share and work together.  

The Developmental Steps of Sharing: 

Developmental Task Adult's Role  Strategies

Learning about ownership –

Everything is “MINE!”  

The adult’s job is to understand this is a stage of development and allow the children ownership by dividing up toys, and not asking them to share.  Do not expect your toddler to share. Instead meet friends in a neutral space, where no one is required to share “their” toys. When meeting in your own home, help your child put away toys that are special to her, and that she does not wish to share. Bring out toys that are multiples such as blocks, two blue trucks, two dolls, etc.  Divide the toys equally and place them on separate trays or defined areas for each child to have his/her own.  Then say, “These are Sam’s blocks, and these are Tosha’s.”  This allows them to experience ownership.

Learning about turn taking. 

The adult’s role is to allow ownership but to begin teaching turn taking  Even when your child is in the “mine,” stage you can begin introducing the concept of taking turns. When your child is playing, say to him, “Mom/dad wants a turn with the red truck. May I have a turn when you are finished?” When your child hands you the truck take a “turn,” then hand it back saying, “Mom is finished. Here you can have a turn.” If a child reaches for a toy “owned” by another child, you can say, “Sam, you have the pink blocks and Tosha would like a turn. They are your blocks, but you can let someone have a turn when you are not using them.” To encourage turn taking if the child says, “no,” you can nudge by saying, “Tosha would really like a turn.  Let’s set a timer and when it dings, it will be time to let her have a turn. If your child resists reinforce that the blocks are his, and that when the other child is finished, he can have a turn again. Then ask him what he’d like to do while he is waiting for the other child to finish

Learning to use toys cooperatively

The adult’s job is to define the problem, generate alternatives and let the children select from the alternatives.   Once your child is verbally fluent and capable of taking turns you can introduce the idea of working together. (Until a child is verbal cooperative play is not possible.) To get them started you might say, “Let’s have a restaurant. Who wants to be the cook and who wants to be the waiter?”  Or Let’s build a city. Who wants to build the house and who wants to build the store?”

 Introducing problem solving skills. 

The adult’s job is to define the problem and then give the children an opportunity to generate ideas. If they are not yet capable of coming up with ideas, offer several

Once your child is able to take turns and use a toy cooperatively with someone else, you can introduce problem solving skills. 

The adult’s job is to define the problem. “I see two children who both want the same red chair. Here’s what we can do when two people want the same thing. We need to find something that will make both of you happy.

Then involve the children. “Pippa, what do you need? Pippa responds, “I need the chair first.” Turning to the other child the adult asks, “Mason would you be happy if Pippa has the chair first?” Mason declares, “No!” 

Establish a limit. “If we can’t find a way to work together, I will put the chair away.” 

Offer potential solutions.  “Here are things we could do. We could give the chair to the first person who had it.”  “We could find another chair.” “We could say no one has the chair.” “You could use it together.” 

Follow through. If the children cannot agree on a solution do what you said you would do. “You are continuing to say, ‘no.’ I will take the chair away.” Then remove the chair, and say, “Let me know when you work it out. I’m putting the chair right here.”

Supporting children as they solve the problem themselves. The adult’s role is simply to help define the problem, allow children the opportunity to solve it themselves and acknowledge their skills.

Begin by defining the problem. “You both want the same toy, let’s think of three things you could do to make this work for everyone.”

Pause to allow the children time to think of potential solutions. If they get stuck on one idea say to them, “That’s one idea we need two more.” 

If you’ve been practicing problem solving skills with the children, you’ll find that even four and five -year-old children will quickly learn to come up with ideas. Instead of screams you will hear, “Hey guys, I have an idea!”  Or, “What if you take this and I’ll take that.” 

When you hear those words and see the children solving the problems unassisted affirm their efforts by saying, “I heard you two just work out that problem!”  Or, “I saw you both wanted that playdough and you worked it out. Great problem-solving.”



During the day as you interact with your child practice these skills. Gradually, you will see your child begin to use those same words and actions during play with their friends and siblings. Jenny found this to be true. After the embarrassing play date, she had contacted Lynn and me. We had assured her Abigail’s behavior was a typical two-year-old in the “mine,” stage and had encouraged her to introduce turn taking. It was only a few days later when she sent us an e-mail. “This morning I was in the kitchen when Abigail brought me her favorite stuffed bear and said, ‘Okay momma, you can have a turn.’” Later when we were baking together, she wanted the measuring cup I was holding. In the past she would have tried to grab it from me, but today she put her hands on her hips and declared, ‘Momma, my turn now!’ I was so happy she asked, instead of grabbing it, I gave her the cup!” 

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