Sharing for Toddlers

Teaching the Art of Sharing

So our daughters are now 27 months and 10 months old.  They are at that stage where toys and books can be interesting—especially if the other one has it.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had to break up many, let’s call them “situations”, between our girls as one would try to swat at the other to maintain control of the toy/book in question.  Dominance of playland is at stake every day as these two battle.  Through the first couple weeks of this—I’d like to say it was in mere days or hours, but that’d be a lie—we began to change our approach to these “situations”.

In the beginning, we would calmly take the toy out of the jump-ball situation it had entered and hand it back to the child that had it first, or at least we thought had it first.  We would say, “Mikaela, we share with your sister,” or “Juliet, your sister was playing with that.”  Those comments became less calm as the “situations” continued to arise, so it was time to try something different.

My wife had the idea that when a toy is the center of a fight, then the toy will go into timeout until the next day.  This created some immediate backlash from our eldest, but has since shown her that there are consequences to not treating others the right way.  She is only 2, but hopefully this helps us create a foundation to build off of in the future as we continue to discuss how to properly treat others.

Adding this version of timeout seems to work well when paired with the comments and directions on sharing, at least for the oldest, and it has also helped us regain calm when making the comments and providing the direction.

Taking Sharing to the Next Level

Last weekend—ten nights ago—we decided to try an experiment.  We want to test the hypothesis that our children could coexist in the same 9 by 11 space for an entire night.  So we decided to put our girls in the same bedroom for the first time.  To be fair we had kind of tested the waters in a hotel room a couple of months ago, but that was a strange place and strange beds so its colossal failure doesn’t really count.

We chose to begin this endeavor on a night that we were having friends over, because we knew sleep was going to be minimal anyway.  This was a good choice as Juliet, our youngest, took some time to get used to being in a new room (I’m not sure if it was getting used to the room or just getting completely exhausted by screaming and crying).  Once we moved our oldest, Mikaela, back to her room at 2 a.m. the night went smoothly.

The next few nights started much better, but the girls decided to start waking up in the middle of the night or just much earlier than we had grown accustomed to.  Now that they’re sharing a room they’re also sharing a sleep schedule.  Before sharing Mikaela would sleep 11 to 12 hours a night, but Juliet would sleep just 8 or 9.  The first few days of sharing they slept much closer to Juliet’s average night, if even that much.

However, last night was a wonderful night.  They slept for 10 hours.  They seem to have found a compromise that works for both of them.  We’ll see if it lasts though.

This extra time they’ve shared, even though it’s while sleeping, has seemed to bring them a little closer together.  They already got along more often than not, but the way they get along now has seemed to change.  They seem to enjoy playing together, cleaning up together, and being devious together.  But yes, the “situations” do still arise.

Part of me wishes we would have tested our hypothesis sooner, but most of me knows it never would’ve worked (Juliet just started sleeping through the night the 2 weeks prior to the move).

These girls have really been forced into learning about sharing and valuing things as not just their own over the last few weeks, and I think they have done a remarkable job—for their ages especially.  They are learning that not everything can be stamped “mine”, but instead it’s “ours” or simply something we borrow.

I hope we can keep this lesson going, because I feel like this will greatly help them as they get older and begin to face different life situations.

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2 thoughts on “Sharing for Toddlers

  1. I really love this post. I have a two year old and a 1 year old and they have the same problems. He hates his little sister even LOOKING at his toys, and she has to have whatever her big brother has. There has been hitting, and pushing, and screaming and a lot of timeouts, stern “talking-tos” and toys taken away. I wish your idea would work for us, but unfortunately the two already share a room, so I will have to keep searching for a better idea. But, I do like the toy timeout for a whole day idea… hopefully that will bring some peace to this sibling rivalry.

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