When conflicts erupt among siblings over toys, you may be tempted to buy two of everything just to avoid the frequent trouble. Yet you know they’ll surely find something new to fight over, whether it be a family blanket, a cookie, or just the space they both inhabit. Fighting over things is what young siblings do until they learn how to live together and share.
The sooner you can teach your children how to share, the sooner you’ll be free of at least a portion of the chaos.
Be Mindful Of Developmental Milestones
Toddlers are still self-focused and thus unable, as-of-yet, to put themselves in another child’s shoes, which is one of the developmental milestones that children must reach to truly share. Fortunately, they’re easily distracted so with vigilance you can cut off at least some of the angry outbursts before they begin.
But that doesn’t mean the training for sharing can’t start in the toddler years. You can introduce the concept by playing some sharing games with them and their siblings together.
- Play “my-turn-your-turn” by passing a toy back and forth over a short time period, so they don’t “miss” it before they get it back.
- Play “share the cookies” by bringing in a plate with two and giving your toddler one of the cookies and taking the other for yourself. Sharing is thus introduced as a way to please both people who are sharing.
- Play simple board games in which you take turns.
- Using a timer set for a short interval (perhaps a minute), take turns doing crazy dances or running around the living room, one after the other.
During these years, it’s wise for your older children to label their “special” toys, and then be sure to put these toys out of sight and reach of the toddlers. This will lessen conflict and let the older siblings have a sense of control and respect.
Help Siblings With The Language Of Sharing
The preschool years are the prime years for teaching siblings how to negotiate sharing among themselves. But their language skills may not have caught up with their need to negotiate, so it’s important to teach them how to ask for what they want, and how to respond when asked.
- For kids who want to join the game of tag at the park, teach them phrases like “Can I play the game too?” or “Can I join the next game?”
- For kids who aren’t quite ready to give up the toy they’re sharing, teach them to say “I’m going to play with it a little longer” or “You can have this crayon after I finish coloring the grass.”
- For kids who’d like a turn with a toy, “May I play with that when you’re done?” or “Can I have a turn?”
Help Siblings With Practical Sharing Options
Teach all your siblings practical solutions to sharing problems.
- A timer is a good way to ensure fair sharing. Teach your children how to use it.
- When there’s no timer available, teach children alternative options, like five more sweeps on the swing, or one more turn around the park on a shared bike before handing it over, etc.
- When a sibling asks to use a toy that the older brother or sister doesn’t yet want to give up, that older brother or sister could offer options for other toys and consider asking the younger sibling to play. Often with older siblings a younger child doesn’t necessarily want the toy, but they want to join their older sibling’s amazing imaginative world.
Conflicts about community playthings are inevitable in every family. By starting early and respecting your children’s individual developmental stages, you can teach them that sharing can actually be fun.