red-carIn toddlers, often short on the heels of that suddenly popular word “NO!” comes the word “MINE!” I’ll talk about “no” in another post, but what’s going with the word “mine?”

Why is it so hard for little ones to share? Why does cajoling seldom work? Why do we find ourselves prying toys from our guys little fingers in order to teach sharing?

Several reasons–and to understand, you have to think like a child. First, it’s a new skill. No one is born knowing about sharing or when, how, or why to do it. It must be taught and it must be learned–this is neeeew stuff.

Second, it’s hard to do. At the age when we usually start teaching sharing, a child has just become fairly mobile and can get to things that belong to someone else. But more importantly, they are developing a sense of being separate from those around them. They are developing a sense of being their own little person.

And what can help you feel separate more than having your own stuff? “It’s mine” means it’s not yours. This item in my hand makes me different from you; I have this, you don’t. I’m me, you aren’t me and I’m not you.

So this “MINE” business is important to a child’s growing. But does that mean we don’t teach sharing? Certainly not but there are a few tricks to make it easier.

One, don’t start too early. One year olds are not going to learn to share. Two year olds can maybe begin a little (but not all the time). It’s ok to tell another child, “She’s playing with that now; you can play with it later” and hand them another toy.

By three, kids should be getting more into the hang of sharing. But remember, they are still in the early stages of learning it.

And when you encourage and/or insist on it, add these words:

“You can share with Johnny. The car will still be yours.”

Often you’ll see the light go on.  “Oooohhhh, I get it. It’s mine so even if it leaves my hands, it’s still mine.”

Isn’t it cool? What a concept! 🙂