Sharing: Helping your toddler learn to share

I am a day-care provider. My 17-month-old son is very jealous of the other children coming to my house. He bites the other kids and pushes them down when they come near his toys. He just doesn't want to share. Is there anything I can do to help encourage sharing?

Question:

You are facing a problem common to parents of young children everywhere. How do you get your children to share their toys with other children who visit their home?

The answer is not an easy one. In fact, this is a very difficult task -- especially for sensitive kids -- and may not be fully accomplished until your child is five or six and truly ready for complex, cooperative play.

Children who share beautifully in a school environment often have trouble sharing their own things on their own turf. At you child's age, explanations won't do. He is just too young to understand communication.

I suggest that you take many of his toys -- especially his favorites -- and lock them away in a closet. Then, after the other children leave, you can take them out and play with him. Tell him that these toys are for just him. You should also be hugging him a lot, and telling him that you are his mommy and you love him. This may help at his age, and will certainly help an older child between the ages of three and six.

The biting, however, is something that will resolve itself over time. Once he learns to talk, he will be able to use his mouth to communicate, rather than to bite.

If your son is having a very difficult time, you may decide it is best to discontinue your job for a little while. I know this sounds like a radical idea, but 17 months is a time of strong separation anxiety and strong love for the primary caretaker. I'm sure your son will be better able to handle the jealousy of seeing his mother take care of other children once he is able to talk about his feelings and able to understand your loving answer.

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