They say manners don’t cost anything.
For something that’s supposed to be free, it sure does take a lot of effort to instil manners into a toddler!
We’ve always wanted our toddler to be polite. To say her “please and thank yous” and to play nicely with other children. We all know you won’t get this from a toddler at this stage. My little one always needs reminding to say “please” rather than angrily demanding a book be read to her. She snatches toys away from other children, as they also do to her. This is all part of developing their social skills, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging them to be respectful at this stage, even if they won’t get it yet. Eventually I hope it will stick.
But there’s a bit of a growing storm in our house. It’s getting worse every day and soon I fear it’s going to blow into a full-on hurricane. The problem is sharing.
My baby is seven months old and is now grabbing for everything. She can sit up, well for a little while until she smacks down head first, and can roll herself over to what has taken her interest. She loves toys, anything bright, mirrors and books. But most of all she loves her big sister and, crucially, whatever her big sister is playing with.
It’s gorgeous to see my baby looking so adoringly at her big sister, she saves all her biggest smiles for when she sees my toddler. She is fascinated by her. However she doesn’t understand that snatching something out of her big sister’s hand isn’t the way to go about showing her love.
My house is now filled with the sound of my toddler yelling: “Noooo she took my Lego. That’s mine! That’s not fair!”
My baby always looks a little confused at this outburst. Then she often laughs. I don’t think this helps the situation.
So I’m trying to talk to my toddler about sharing and how it works. My toddler is two years and five months. Her language is amazing and there is very little she doesn’t understand now when we have conversations. But the concept of sharing is difficult for her because she’s still just going on instinct. Yes she feels empathy towards other children and adults but she really just cares about what she has in her possession in that moment. She is operating on gut instinct and does not know how to control her emotions yet. If she feels put out, she will make it known, loudly!
I’ve tried to encourage my baby to play with all the little baby toys. The rattles and little cuddly teddies, rather than the Lego bricks and blow-up globe, when my toddler is around. The trouble is now she can see someone else enjoying them, my toddler wants to play with the little baby toys too. She snatching toys out of my baby’s hand, sparking a wobbly lip followed by a big, tearful wail.
So now we’re trying to take it in turns. Trouble is my toddler gets five minutes and my baby is lucky to get five seconds before her sister says: “My turn.”
This has only really escalated in the last fortnight. And I can see it getting worse as my youngest develops her physical movement and begins to crawl, which probably is not that far off.
So I worry about the sibling brawls that will break out as a result of this conflict over toys. No matter what they’re playing with, whatever the other one has will be more fun.
But I’m trying to think about the other side to this. The day when they sit side-by-side working on a Lego project together. The day when they have a tea party for all the stuffed animals and sit there sharing out imaginary biscuits to the bears. The day when they play hide-and-seek in the garden.
I know as sisters there will be times they want to tear each other’s hair out. But I also hope there will be love. And lots and lots fun. Because if they can play with each other, it means I can sit this game out and give myself a breather.
Do you have any tips on encouraging siblings to share?
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