The Parenting Page: The Sharing Struggle

Sharing is one of the toughest lessons for a toddler to learn.

In fact, they have their own set of rules about it:

Toddler's Rules of Ownership
— If I like it, it's mine. If it's in my hand, it's mine.
— If I can take it from you, it's mine.
— If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
— If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
— If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
— If it looks just like mine, it's mine.
— If I think it's mine, it's mine.

— Author Unknown

Although I don’t know where this originated, I do know it’s 100 percent accurate.

Remember how you used to like to share things when you were a kid? Guess, what? You didn’t. No child likes to share, especially a toddler. This list represents their ultimate fantasy world.

You create the reality. At first I tried reasoning with my little ones. Hello! You can’t reason with a toddler! I realize that . . . now.

Here is how the dialogue went:

Me: You can alternate playing with your brother’s Dancing Elmo. Sam is going to play with him for two minutes and then it’s your turn.

Meanwhile, the toddler is thinking: What is two minutes? What do you mean alternate? If it’s out of my hand, it’s gone, and I want it back . . . NOW!

Me: If you want his Dancing Elmo, then Sam can take your Pretty Pet Pony.

Toddler: Hmmm. This is interesting and I’m not sure I like it. I have the Dancing Elmo, but now he has my Pretty Pony. I want that too.

If she takes her Pony back, then I give Elmo back to Sam. You can use whatever language you want to accompany this exchange process, but it’s going through the changeover several times.

They catch on and almost always decide they’d rather keep their own items than have someone else touch their toys, even if that means they can’t have all the things they want.

By the age of 2 1/2 or 3 they get the basic idea of what is fair. That doesn’t mean they like it, but if you use that as a basis for your actions, they get it. One viewer wrote me that she figured out a great way to keep her boys from fighting.

She wrote, “After one battle I let each of them choose the punishment for the other. They thought about what would be the worst thing for their brother to deal with which, of course, meant it was something they wouldn’t like done to them. The punishment the one chose for the other became his own punishment. The fighting stopped.”

Another viewer came up with a really good one for girls who used to fight like cats and dogs.

She wrote, “You know how pre-teen girls can get! It was vicious. After a day-long ongoing argument I’d had enough. I made them hold each other’s hand and go walk around outside. They thought they looked silly and they were right. They both got so mad at me that they began to actually get along. A common enemy unites most people!”

Thanks for the terrific ideas. We’re all in this together!

E.D. Hill is a FOX News Channel host and author of "I'm Not Your Friend, I'm Your Parent." She has eight children. Click here to read more about E.D.'s new book.