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All about Parenting Toddlers , Issue #020 - Getting Toddlers to Share
December 03, 2003
Shaping the life of your precious onesAll about Parenting Toddlers
3rd December 2003
Welcome to another issue of All about Parenting Toddlers .
In This Issue:
1. Play Nice: Getting Toddlers to Share
All parents want their children to share and cooperate with others. Unfortunately, toddlers and preschoolers are just learning how to socialize and how to share, and sharing is a skill that takes time and practice. As a parent, you need to help them learn.
We often tell our young children to "play nice," but this is like telling them to multiply or to divide. They do not know how to share, so it does not do any good to tell them to do it. Rather than let the little tots work things out among themselves, you sometimes need to intervene to show them how to share and show them why they need to share.
Here are some ways parents can promote sharing and cooperation and prevent conflicts with sharing.
Show them how to share
Instead of telling them to take turns, show them how to take turns. If a little boy and little girl are fighting over a toy, for example, suggest that the little boy play with it for a short while and then it will be the girl’s turn. Help her find another toy to play with until it’s her turn. After a short while, remind the little boy that it is the little girl’s turn with the toy. Then, if necessary, help him find something else to play with. Praise him for remembering to give her a turn, and praise her for waiting patiently.
Alternatively, show them how to play with the same toy together, such as rolling a ball or pushing a truck back and forth to each other. Games such as these foster cooperation in children.
Sometimes, if the youngsters are old enough, you may be able to prompt them to come up with ways to cooperate and share on their own. Say something like, "Looks like both of you want to play with that toy. What are you going to do? How can you two work this out?" Children are sometimes more cooperative if they feel like it's their own idea.
Prevent conflicts with sharing
Sometimes you can prevent conflicts by preparing in advance. If you are hosting a playdate in your home, have two or three of the same toy so youngsters do not have to share. If this proves impossible, have several of the same type of toy, such as several dolls or several cars.
Also, because toddlers find it difficult to share materials from a common pile, you may try dividing the toys into separate piles for each child. If you make it clear that one pile belongs to this child, and another pile belongs to that child, you will avoid a lot of arguments among the children.
Another way to alleviate problems is by helping your children put away favorite toys before any playmates arrive. This will not only prevent conflicts with sharing, but also prevent toys from accidentally getting broken.
Remind your toddler that his toys remain his. Reassure him that his friends will not take his toys home with them.
If you are visiting someone else and your child wants to bring a special toy, remind him that he will have to share it with the other children. Encourage him to leave it at home or in the car, or suggest that he choose something else.
Finally, before your guests arrive or before you get to the play date, tell your child what you expect. Don't just say, "Play nice." Be specific. Tell him, "Do not snatch toys away from anyone. You have to take turns and share toys even with the babies."
Teach them why they need to share
Adults share because we care about the other person’s feelings and because it makes us feel good to make others happy. Give your children opportunities to help other children, so they will learn that it feels good to help others. For example, let them pass out the snacks or show another child how to build a puzzle. Then praise them for their helpfulness and emphasize how good it must have made them feel.
Help children learn to recognize other people’s feelings by specifically pointing out the consequences of their actions. Tell them, “Brendon is crying because you took his toy away. How do you think he feels? How do you feel when someone takes your doll away from you?”
Praise good behavior by being specific too. Don’t just say, “How nice of you.” Instead, say something like, “You shared because you like to help others. You’re a good friend to Brendon. Look how happy he is that you shared your toy.”
Read stories about sharing and talk about them. You can use books about sharing, such as "Mine! : A Sesame Street Book about Sharing" by Linda Hayward, "I Am Sharing" by Mercer Mayer, and "It’s Mine" by Leo Lionni. Or you can bring up the topic of sharing as it comes up in other stories, such as the seven dwarves sharing their home with Snow White.
Finally, teach by example. Let your children see you sharing, cooperating and being considerate of others, and they will try to imitate you.
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Slow eaters. Slow walkers. Slow talkers. Slow with homework. Sooner or later, parents have to deal with dawdling. In some families, dawdling is a minor issue. In others, it's the source of much friction. And for working parents, feeling pressure to get to work on time, a child's dawdling can start everyone's day off badly.
Why Do Children Dawdle?
There are many reasons. It can be a control issue: their way of getting attention; a passive temper tantrum. Or they may be easily distracted. They daydream. They get lost in the moment, in what's in front of them. Or the opposite: they don't want to do what's ahead of them; it's easier to sit at the breakfast table than face homeroom. Or they may simply move through the world at a slower pace.
Dealing with Dawdlers
If your child is a chronic dawdler, here are some suggestions for dealing with it.
First, consider if your child is dawdling to manipulate situations or because he lives life at a slow pace. Parents and children can be a mismatch in this area and it may be difficult for go-go parents to recognize that slow behavior is part of who a child is, not something they willfully do to control a situation. Pace is set very early in life and parents need to accept that and find productive ways to work with it.
• Don't compare a dawdler to other children. "Why can't you eat faster like your sister?" Or, "Your brother always gets his work done on time."
• Avoid labeling your child. Calling a child a dawdler or the slow poke can become a self-fulfilling statement. Also, it's very denigrating.
• Explain to your child that you're trying not to nag him but you have obligations and it makes you anxious if you aren't on time.
• Try not to hurry a dawdler. He can freeze up from the stress. And if control is the source of the dawdling, it can cause a child to dig in his heels and be even slower.
• Identify the specific situations where your child dawdles. Is it getting ready for school? Or when you want him to get to the dinner table? Can you figure out if he's trying to avoid something with this behavior or is he simply distracted?
Prepare Your Child in Advance
Once you have identified the typical dawdle-inducing situations, you can prepare your child in advance by giving him cues he can use to move himself along.
For example, you want him ready to leave the house to go to his uncle's house for a family dinner. Talk about the outing at breakfast and remind him that you will be leaving late in the afternoon. Tie it to something he can relate to: we'll leave after the video is over, or just after it gets dark. Explain every detail of the routine and in what order. "We're going to leave at 4 o'clock so we can catch the 4:15 bus." Some children need to hear this many times for it to sink in. Ask him if he is planning to bring anything with him and tell him to get it ready by the front door. Then follow up to see that he had done the preparation; don't wait until departure. An hour or so before you want to leave, see that he is dressed and ready to leave. Are his toys or homework by the door? Teeth brushed, etc? Once everything is ready, he can play while you get ready.
On some occasions, plan to leave 20 minutes earlier than you need to. This will give you a window of time so you can avoid feeling anxious and tense. Working with your child on these issues can make family life more enjoyable.
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Wondering what food to prepare for your child’s birthday party?
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