Parenting Switches: Toddler Yells Instead of Sharing

The situation: The toddler is playing with a toy. His little sister wants to play with the toy. The toddler yells at his little sister. His little sister starts to cry.


Sit down on the floor with the two children. Pick the baby up onto your lap on one side. Pat your leg to offer the other side to the toddler (who may or may not take it- My son did not.)

Say: Oh Alexander! No yell. Yelling is sad! Anne Marie says “that scared me and made me cry!” Sad Anne Marie, Sad Alexander! Anne Marie says “I want to share. I want to play! Can I take a turn then you can take a turn again?” Look! Look! A game to play. Alexander loads the digger and dumps it in Anne Marie’s dump truck! Oh what fun it is to play together. Can you sound like a truck? Vroooom! Oh what fun!

Instead of:

“Alexander! Don’t yell at your sister! Go to time out until you can share!”

By choosing to handle the situation this way I  did not isolate the children. I gave my son an alternative way to handle the situation, I put words to what my daughter was experiencing, and I modeled an example for him.

He responded not to me but to his sister. He said “Yes! I want to play. I want a turn too. I get the digger and you get the dump truck!” and he pushed the dump truck over to his little sister and they spent the next 20 minutes playing and taking turns.

He was frustrated because his little sister was grabbing a toy that he was playing with, and he didn’t have the necessary tools in his toolkit to cope with the situation. He just wanted it to stop. He reacted emotionally.

He was not “bad”, he was not “mean”. He was two and a half and acting in an age appropriate behavior that I wanted to help him change. He would have learned nothing from being isolated, other than perhaps that when his little sister is around he doesn’t get to play and has to go sit in a naughty corner.

2 thoughts on “Parenting Switches: Toddler Yells Instead of Sharing

  1. My two year old is an only child and not too keen on me holding other babies. We had a visit and I held a five months old so his mom could drink her tea. When she stared fussing I sat down with him and showed her how to wave her hands to amuse him, and talked with her about how she used to love this when she was a baby. They also played for at least 15 minutes, long after he was down from my lap.

    Tips for making the share instead of compete happen with children of same age would be welcome. Sometimes we sucseed but sometimes they just want to snatch back each and every toy from the other one. Espechially the one who is at home feels like this about the visitor taking her toys.

  2. I think your point that not immediately wanting to share is age appropriate and does not mean the child is “bad”. They just haven’t developed the skills to handle the situation reasonably. Your approach is so much more reasonable and respectable than a shaming time-out

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