What to Do When Your Toddler Won’t Share

What to Do When Your Toddler Won’t Share

Strategies to Decrease the Drama

OK, listen: Is anyone else sick of singing the sharing song over and over again? No offense to Daniel Tiger (who we love), but FOR THE LOVE. 

Plus? It doesn’t work. (Not in our house, anyway.)

It’s not Daniel’s fault, though. Sharing is HARD, in part because being protective of our stuff is basically a primal instinct. No wonder kids practically exit the womb shrieking, “MINE!”

Buuuuuuuut part of being a well-adjusted, kind, and compassionate human involves sharing. Aaaaaaaand part of being a rockstar parent means teaching our kids how it’s done. 

Our online course, Winning the Toddler Stage, provides alllll the details on our four *must-know* sharing strategies (plus a full section on siblings!). You can get the course here! And in the meantime, we’re sharing two VERY important things to keep in mind during your toddler’s next toy tug-of-war … 

#1 Be a Sportscaster, not a referee.

When you see said toy tug-of-war, your natural instinct is to throw on a striped jersey and go all referee on them, right? It’s SO tempting to jump in and just FIX IT. 

Ever wonder why, despite you jumping in to coordinate who gets what turn, ripping toys out of one’s hands to give it to the other doesn’t work? They’re right back into sharing battles 4 seconds later and all day everrrrrry day? 

It’s because when you do that, you limit your child’s opportunity to learn. And if you don’t give your kids an opportunity to learn, well,  the same shrill shrieking pattern of sharing is bound to continue over and over and overrrrrrrrrr.

So instead of going all “FLAG ON THE PLAY!” think like a broadcaster.

Here’s what we mean: Your first step toward helping feuding kids work it out is to simply narrate what you see happening.

“I see two friends who are feeling sad and mad. Emma wants to play with the ball, and Micah wants to play with the ball, too.”

Then, give them a chance to come up with a solution on their own.

“Hmmm, what could you two do here?”

We know you may be skeptical about this step – but trust us, you’ll likely end up shocked at how well this actually works! If your toddler is pre-verbal, there’s a good chance they’ll just stare at you like you’ve sprouted horns. But you’re still going to empower them with the opportunity to solve their dispute. Over time (and as they get more words) they’ll realize they can calmly and kindly work it out with their friends, which is a life skill we want them to have!

Whether your kid’s verbal or not, there’s a chance no one will have any ideas to resolve their spat. At that point, you can offer a suggestion:

“Okay, I’m going to help you come up with a solution. Emma, you can play with the ball first, and when you’re done, say ‘all done’ and hand it to Micah.”

 #2: Address Aggression Immediately

It’s all fun and games channeling your inner broadcaster until someone puts an eye out. 

If the sharing showdown involves hitting, pulling, or aggression of any kind, press pause on the whole “here’s how we share” thing. Instead, step in calmly and quickly to diffuse the situation and keep everybody safe.

“I see two mad kids hitting each other. I need to keep everyone safe. Lee, come sit right here. Tasha, come sit right here. We’re taking a break to let our bodies calm down.”

Once everyone is safe and calm, you can circle back to brainstorming how they can share the toy. 

The key to all of this is calm. Toddlers aren’t super open to correction when they’re overwhelmed by big feelings. (Honestly? Same.) So prioritize safety and calm, then help them work it out.

This Ish is Hard, But You’re Not Alone

What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t share our biggest resource of all? Our online course, Winning the Toddler Stage, is designed to help you conquer parenting mountains big and small. It covers alllllll the toddler topics under the sun: tantrums, *preventing* tantrums, screen time, mealtime, sleep, new baby, parent preference, discipline, and soooo much more.

And yes – it outlines our four favorite sharing strategies, and gives you step-by-step instructions for each one. 

You’ll have access to the course forever – and if it doesn’t totally change your life, we’ll refund you in full.

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