This Expert Advice Will Leave Every Parent Surprised – And Probably Relieved

When it comes to toddlers, it is difficult to predict how they will react to different situations.  They are learning and developing at such a furious pace, they are nothing if not unpredictable.

And as they start becoming more self-aware and developing new language and skills, we as parents work to guide them with proper communication and developing relationships with others.

We all know that a toddler’s favorite words are often “no” and “mine!”  And so we work hard to teach them to share and cooperate with others.  But what many parents don’t know is that being possessive at this age is completely normal – in fact, necessary for their development.

And – gasp! – experts are now telling us to stop forcing our toddlers to share with others.

Parents.com reported:

You’ve probably learned that it makes sense to put away any very special toys or stuffed animals before another child comes over for a playdate. “After all, if a stranger picked up your purse or your phone, you’d be pretty upset,” says Ori Friedman, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Waterloo, in Canada. You’d stick up for yourself, so why do we expect little kids to behave any differently?

If you consider the fact that your child relies on her things to help her work out who she is, it becomes easier to see why sharing can be such an explosive concept. Through this lens, the “mine” stage is an exaggerated version of something most of us struggle with on occasion, no matter how old we are. Toddlers just tend to work through these frustrations a little more loudly than grown-ups do.

It seems to be ingrained in parents that we must teach our children to share with others as soon as they are walking, talking, and playing.  We are embarrassed when we are out on our playdate and our child screams like a banshee when someone takes their toy.

Parents seem to be hard-wired to program sharing into their toddler’s subconscious.  But this may actually interfere with the development of important social skills and self-awareness, ironic since those are the things we are trying to foster in them by encouraging sharing.

Experts are now going so far as to say that sharing in young toddlers, between 2 and 3 years old, is actually not developmentally appropriate and should not be forced.

Dr. Laura Markham tells the New York Post,“It actually delays the development of sharing skills,” she says. “Kids need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share.”

Toddlers must develop their own sense of identity and worth – vital skills in development – before they are able to process the needs and feelings of others.

They are learning right and wrong and, eventually, the concept of what makes people react the way they do.  As your toddler gets older, they come to realize that a smile means their friend is happy and giving them one of their toys to share makes them smile, therefore, the idea of sharing to “be nice” and make someone else feel good becomes a more natural skill.

Parents.com continued:

Though your kid’s grabby meltdown doesn’t seem like her finest moment, it actually reflects how smart she’s becoming. “It suggests that she is grasping the abstract concept of a person’s invisible tie to a thing,” says Susan Gelman, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Toddlers are little, so their reasoning is simple: Research has found that children between ages 2 and 4 tend to believe that the person who possesses an object first is the rightful owner, even if someone else gets hold of it later. The argument “I had it first!” would carry serious legal weight in a toddler-led court of law.

But something important is happening at this stage of your child’s life: Her sense of self is becoming more sophisticated. A toddler can look at her reflection and understand that she’s seeing herself. In essence, a child’s sense of me emerges alongside her sense of mine. And she may be vocal about what is hers because she is focused on figuring out who she is.

Experts have also commented that sharing in toddlers is not going to teach them about the real world.  For example, we would not allow someone to visit us and then take some of our belongings home with them in the name of being nice.  Adults have developed the understanding that we do not own everything we see and that there are boundaries, laws in fact, about taking things that belong to others.

Now, no one is saying never teach your child to share.  But there is a time for learning to share with other children when they are old enough to understand compassion for others.  The crucial ideas of self and where they fit in the world are most important in a young toddler’s emotional development.

New York Post commented:

Of course, we want our children to get along with other people, and making them share their toys with friends seems like a step on that road.But maybe there are other virtues we are stifling with this whole forced sharing business.

Are we giving them the sense that all stuff is collectively owned and just by virtue of their presence in a room, they are entitled to take part in its use?How will they understand the importance of property rights to growing a free and prosperous ­society?And this whole business about having some authority divvy up our spoils and arbitrarily decide who is most deserving of them sounds more like a socialist utopia than a practice for training our children to be democratic ­citizens.

Of course, we have to draw some lines in the sandbox and see to it that one overgrown toddler doesn’t run roughshod over the others.But in the case of sharing, as with so much else in parenting these days, it may be that the best course of action is to take a few steps back.

Perhaps we parents have created the “terrible twos” by forcing a skill on our toddlers that they are too young to understand or put into practice.  It may, indeed, be wise to take a step back and let our toddlers learn who they are first.

And what should you do when your child is screaming on their next playdate because another toddler took their beloved toy?  Smile and let them know that you read on Mommy Underground that sharing is not developmentally appropriate for a two-year-old — and like and share with other moms!

Are you surprised by the research that says we should not be forcing our young toddlers to share?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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