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  • Why Your Toddler Becomes 'Mean' About Toys With Other Kids And What You Can Do About It

    It's normal behavior for toddlers and part of their development.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Why Your Toddler Becomes 'Mean' About Toys With Other Kids And What You Can Do About It
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Seahorse Photo in BKK
  • I talked to a mom friend recently and she shares her 2-year-old has recently developed a habit of taking toys from her younger sibling. “Parang nag-be-break ang heart ko, ‘pag inaagawan niya ‘yung kapatid niya, it makes me feel like a bad parent,” she shares.

    Why your kid likes taking other children’s toys

    If you’re a parent caught up in the same situation, don’t worry — your child is not being mean about it. This is normal behavior for a toddler, according to experts. Here are some reasons for their actions:

    They want to play together.

    Grabbing toys can be a toddler’s way to make their presence known. It is a social gesture, according to Janet Lansbury, a parenting educator, author and host of the popular podcast Respectful Parenting.

    She explains, “It’s a way to ‘play together’, to say, “Hi!” or “Hmmm… what have you got there?” or “The way you are moving that toy around is intriguing. I’m going to check it out.”

    Most of the time, we don’t even have to interfere when it happens. When a child is playing with a toy and another kid attempts to grab it from them, it might not always end in a fight.

    “They resolve the dispute without us,” shares child psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham in her article for Aha! Parenting. “They’re learning how to navigate in a complicated world. So sometimes you won’t need to get involved.”

    In fact, reacting to a toy taker can backfire. “If every time adults jump in and bring in their version of what is right, the children learn either to depend on them or to defy them. The more we trust they can solve, the more they do learn to solve,” says infant specialist and Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) founder Magda Gerber in her book Dear Parent: Caring For Infants With Respect.


    They are dealing with big emotions.

    If the toy grabbing has become habitual, Dr. Markham says it may be a sign that your child “has some big feelings that she needs your help to work through.” Until those emotions are handled, they won’t be able to “work with” another child and break their habit.

    A little intervention may be necessary at this point. When you see your child approach their sibling who is holding a toy, Dr. Lansbury suggests placing your hand between the two kids and asking, “Are you asking to use [the toy?]”

    If your child says yes, but their sibling looks as if they do not want to give the toy, teach your child to wait and take turns. Say, “He’s using that right now. How about you choose another one to play with?”

    You can also “narrate,” what is happening as a way of putting into words whatever your child is feeling at the moment, suggests Dr. Markham.

    For example, you might say, “Your brother is playing with the toy and you want it, too. But he isn’t done with it and it seems like he doesn’t want to let go just yet. Why don’t we wait for our turn and find something else to do?”

    “When you talk to your daughter like this, she feels heard. She doesn’t get the toy, but she has made her desire clear, and you paid attention. She will now probably let go of the toy and turn her attention elsewhere,” says Dr. Markham.

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    Lansbury adds that this technique works most of the time, but your kid might eventually get upset. Keep calm and be firm. Say, “I won’t let you take the toy. You can use it when your sibling is done.”

    If they insist on reaching for the toy, move them away from the other child. Avoid wrenching it from their grasp, because that will teach them to grab, says Markham.

    Instead, let them cry or be upset. Just let them be until they stop and feel better on their own. This is also a lesson on self-regulation and patience, which your child will eventually learn.

    Fights during playtime among young kids are normal but don't step in right away. Click here to learn why kids need to learn to settle it on their own first.


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