This week’s parenting topic: Toddlers learning to share.
I remember those days … The exhaustion from repeating myself, from performing my role as referee and from having to console one or both of the twins. One suggestion for eliminating conflict, from another parent of multiples, was to buy two of the same toy.
Yes, this worked sometimes, even after considering the double expense, but not always as they would still want the other’s toy (even if they were exactly the same). So the question again is, “How do you resolve this conflict (and create a model that the kids can apply on their own going forward)?”
For our family there was no magic one-time-and-you're-cured solution. What worked for the long run was laying down the foundation for sharing, cooperation and patience in each of our children. Here is an example: Walter is playing with a toy and Bella now wants it, I simply say, “When Walter is through playing with it you can then have it.” I would then ask Walter, “Once you are done with it, will you please give it to your sister.”
In those early days, I had to console or redirect the one that had to wait for the toy. I would also have to keep an eye on the one with the toy. Once I noticed they were done with the toy, usually by just dropping it, I would go to them and say, "I see you are now done with the toy, we are going to give it to your sister/brother."
In the beginning, that exchange would cause the one who had finished playing to want it again. I had to gently explain that although they wanted it again, it was their sibling's turn and I helped them hand the toy gently to the other. Often times, crying would ensue and I would have to console them. I also emphasized how they made their sibling feel good (happy) when they shared.
I remember the first time I saw the benefits of this exercise. It was when Walter had a doll that Bella wanted. She cried and yelled for it, I said my same mantra about waiting. Walter walked into the other room and soon returned with the doll and said, “My done with baby.” He handed Bella the doll and said, “Thister happy now.” He smiled from ear to ear and came over to give me a hug.
By not having a time limit, they now know that they can enjoy a toy (playtime) with no restrictions. When they are finished playing with a toy, they are happy to give the toy to their sibling. An important part is that the sibling having to wait is okay in having to wait, because they trust that they will get a turn. We still have squabbles from time to time but things are so much better now. Plus, the foundation is there for them to be considerate/empathetic adults.
(Editor's Note: The opinions in this article are those of Parents “R” Talking. The opinions are not medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician about any changes you are contemplating.)