What to do when your child is too possessive of objects and people
“No, Daddy! No touching. Maggie is MY sister!” When Hazel Miller was two, she became a big sister. No one, not even her dad, was allowed to hold baby Maggie as far as Hazel was concerned.
Toddlers can be fiercely possessive of the objects and people in their lives. At a playgroup, if one wants what another has, she’s likely to wrench it from the other child’s hands, and parents then find themselves dealing with a tug-of-war. At the park, a two-year-old sitting on the swing may decide it’s his swing — especially if someone else is interested in having a turn.
“This is a stage, a completely normal and healthy one,” says Calgary parent educator Judy Arnall, author of Discipline Without Distress. “But it can also be annoying for parents, who worry that they need to nip possessive behaviour in the bud, before it develops into unmitigated selfishness.”
For a toddler, possession is everything; having an object in his hands means it’s his. Likewise, if someone dares to pick up his blanket, it may no longer be his — pretty scary for a two-year-old. In time, kids develop a more complex understanding of what ownership means — that your doll is still yours even when someone else is playing with it. Sharing can’t happen until kids make this cognitive leap, usually by age three or four, says Arnall.