Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sharing/Hoarding Toys


This is a letter I wrote to a parent at Rainbow Bridge who asked for advice for her toddler. There was a new baby in the family, and Lana, age 23 months, was hoarding toys, and generally making interactions with other children unpleasant. This was especially hard when other children came to their home. After our conversation I wrote this:

Dear Lana's Mom,

I was thinking about Lana and sharing, and thought I'd pass along a modified dialogue that I use around sharing all the time here at Rainbow Bridge. I like it because it gives children dialogue that they can use by themselves some day (in the fairly distant future) without your help. Here's what it looks like:

Lana: (seeing Miller playing with a toy): Mine!
You: YES. That is YOUR toy. You're sharing! It's Miller's turn!
Lana: Mine!
You: Yes. You love playing with that toy! Would you like a turn too?
Lana: (either nods or says:) Mine!
You: Let's ask Miller if you can have a turn when he's done. (Turn to Miller) Miller, can Lana play with that when you're done?
Miller: OK
You: (to Lana) He said yes! You can play with that when he's done! (wait a beat.) What will you play with while you wait? (Wait for a minute to see if Lana can move on to something else by herself. If not, pick up a toy and start playing with it, then say): Maybe this babydoll?
Lana: (Either is distracted, or can't be distracted and starts to cry) Wahhh!!!
You: I know. It's hard to wait! Come on over here and let's see what we can find (Carry her away).

That's the basic gist of it. After you've done it a few hundred times, you might be able to stop after acknowledging that it IS in fact her toy and that it's Miller's turn. When she says "Mine!" again, say, "Yes. You love playing with that toy. What's Miller doing with it? Is he driving it around the livingroom? What would YOU like to drive around the livingroom?" And help her find a similar toy. Or you could say, "Yes. You love playing with that toy. Were you playing with it before?" Lana nods. You go on, "What did you do with it?" Then the conversation proceeds apace and you gradually change the subject. I use this all the time and it's amazing how effective it can be.

**Sometimes, depending on Miller's age, you might ask if Lana can play with it when he's done, and he'll say "No!" Then you say, "Oh, we don't mean right now! We mean when you're ALL done. Can Lana play with it when you're ALL DONE?" Usually that's enough to get him to agree, but if he still says no, you can say, "Well, I think when you're ALL DONE it will be OK. (turn to Lana) Lana, you can play with it when he's all done." And, as an FYI, here at Rainbow Bridge we know that somebody is all done when we see the toy lying on the floor.

If Lana is already trying to pull the toy away from Miller before you get to her, the conversation won't be as smooth. Here's what I do at Rainbow Bridge:

Lana: (pulling at the toy): Mine!
You: Oh! Miller's using that right now! You can find a toy that NOBODY is using! (Take the toy and hand it back to Miller, then say): What will YOU find to play with? (If she won't give it up, say firmly): This is for Miller right now. (take the toy and give it back to Miller.)
Lana: Wahhh!!!
You: (sympathetically):I know. You wish you could have it RIGHT NOW! It's so hard to wait! (wait a beat): Let's go find something for you to play with. (or) What's so-and-so doing over there?

So, hopefully this will give you something to get started with.. The most important thing is to keep your cool, and to remember that 1) with this dialogue you're teaching her skills that she'll be able to use on her own some day, and 2) these things are in fact her toys, so be sympathetic at how hard it is to wait (while at the same time, being firm that it's so-and-so's turn).

I love Lana so much. She's sharp as a tack, and she doesn't miss a beat, and she's firm about what she wants. That makes your job much harder than that of parenting a tractable (or easily distractable) toddler, so don't feel like it's a reflection on your parenting that things are hard with her, and that she doesn't behave as easily as other children seem to. She's going to grow up to be an amazing person, so hang in there! I think you guys are going a great job.

Lana's Mom wrote back:
Faith, this is SO helpful, and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to write this all out for me. I think I will print it up and keep it somewhere handy so I can always be remembering this dialogue to use! And I of course love your sweet words about Lana and our parenting - thank you.

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