Mine! Mine!” That seems to be their favorite word for a toddler followed by the word “no”…But why is my toddler possessive and stubborn over EVERYTHING? And how can you discourage this behavior, while also letting them go through this inevitable milestone?
First of all, it helps to understand why toddlers will say “Mine!” about everything. Why do they hug every possession to their chest and refused to give it up?
Well I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t know the reason until recently…but I think a lot of other parents don’t understand either why their toddler is possessive and stubborn over their toys.
Basically, since your two-year old’s brain has not developed to understand a lot of concepts yet, they don’t understand the fact that things CAN be shared.
We, as adults, know that just because we are not holding onto something, and we let someone else borrow it for a little bit, that doesn’t mean it’s not OURS anymore. But toddlers don’t understand the concept of sharing, so they think that once their favorites blanket leaves their hand, it doesn’t belong to them anymore.
That would be pretty scary, right?
Now that makes way more sense as to why a toddler is possessive and stubborn about their toys!
I never knew that their possessiveness went that deep! But wouldn’t you feel the same way? If you thought that someone lifting your Apple Watch off the table to take a look was the same as them stealing it, you would shout, “Mine! Mine!” too. 😉
So, knowing that, how does it change your discipline approach when your toddler is arguing with another child over a toy?
Let’s say, for example, that two toddlers are arguing over a toy that the first one has been playing with for a few minutes. Your instinct is probably to tell the first child that they should give it to the second child, so the second one gets a turn.
Good thinking! The problem is, the first child thinks that they are giving up this toy forever and are never going to see it again! Again, scary!
So you will need to explain to them directly that they will get to play with this toy again later. Tell the first child that the second child is going to get their turn…and only going to play for a little while…and then the first child will get to play again soon.
A lot of parents skip mentioning this because it seems so obvious to them, but it’s not obvious to their child!
Also, if you observe that Child 1 has been playing a long time, so you get up and take the toy away from Child 1 to give it to Child 2…without explaining what you’re doing…you’re teaching both children that grabbing things out of people’s hands is okay!
You always have to model the behavior you want your toddler to emulate because they don’t understand the reasoning behind things. If you take things out of their hands, then they’ll take things out of other kids’ hands. If you want them to understand why you’re taking something away, you have to directly explain to them that it’s Child 2’s turn and they can have it back later.
But even better, DON’T take anything out of your kid’s hand at all, if you can help it. That way, they know grabbing is not okay. Instead, ask them whether they are ready to let another kid have a turn with the toy, and that they will get it back later when it is their turn again.
They will probably say OK, because they like being given choices and feeling like they are in control of the situation! But if they say no, give them a couple more minutes, and then tell them again that it’s time to take turns and they will have a turn again later.
You’ll sound like a broken record, but trust me, they need the repetition until they get older.
I think it helps so much with both discipline and encouragement when you understand that your child’s brain is not the same as yours and that many things will need an explanation for them even if they don’t for you!
Nothing goes without saying, even “I love you!” (That one should definitely not go without saying!)