When are children developmentally ready to share?
Learning to share with grace is a work in progress and takes time for small children. It is developmentally appropriate for young children not to share. Did you know in the zerotothree national survey, they asked parents at what age should a child understand the concept of sharing, and 43% of respondents quoted by the age of two! The honest answer is between 3.5 and 4 years old...knowing this will help you manage your expectations.
Young children take time to develop the ability to put themselves in other people's shoes. They are in the "me" stage. The fact that toddlers grab and do not share may frustrate and embarrass us, but it really shouldn't. Remember, when your toddler refuses to share, the other person will know first hand that this is normal behavior, and they likely experience it daily, too...no judgment!
Have you also noticed that toddlers tend to want to hold on to something more when another child has decided that they want to play with it? Yup, these situations tend to supercharge big emotions on both sides.
As a parent, I decide on the action to take based on a few factors.
- Have I caught the situation while she is still relatively calm? If so, I talk through the feeling! Even if they have not yet developed the concept of sharing as it is a work in progress, remember that the brain develops over time and not overnight. Hence, I am trying to help them navigate their emotions even though I may be unheard and that's OK. It's always good to give your child the option to talk it through..sometimes it works and if not, I go to step two...distraction.
- Has she erupted, and there is no going back? Distraction is another excellent aid; distracting the child who wants something already taken helps divert their attention until the other child is done. However, don't be surprised that when the other child is done, and you take your little one over to the toy they so desperately wanted five minutes ago, that they will have no interest - that's the fun of toddlers! I do always thank her for waiting her turn after distracting her so she can relate the distraction to the sharing issue before.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if your child does snatch off another child, snatching back only teaches them that force works. So although it is embarrassing and frustrating when a child takes something with force, it is better to try to coax the child to give it back in favor of another toy, perhaps than snatching.
Also, remember, tiredness, hunger, overstimulation all cause toddlers to go from 0-1000 in 2 seconds flat, which is when diverting is the only option!
How do you handle sharing tantrums?