I’ve received a lot of emails from very concerned moms whose kids don’t seem to share, are possessive of everything and assume this “mine” position.
One mom wrote:
I have recently started doing child care in my home. I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 month old. I am having a very hard time with my 2 year old. She has become very possessive of everything that is hers. She says mine all the time and is miserable on the days that I have other kids here. I need to do this to bring in an income, but am worried that she will become a nasty little girl. I have tried everything. She has time out for saying mine I have explained to her why not to say mine and have made her apologize and share her toys, but she still is awful. I am worried that she is acting out because she feels threatened for my attention. I try to give her just as much attention as the other kids (I only ever have 2 extra kids so it’s not really a day care setting). She is regularly socialized with my girlfriends’ kids, and we attend church and she is in a Sunday school class that she loves. When we are at other kids homes, she is not like this. Any advice would be helpful!
I’ll start by saying that it is typical behavior for a two year old to assume the “mine” position. Developmentally, these little guys are egomaniacs!! But I do believe that there is a bigger reason for the “mine” position. The first question I always ask parents in this situation is “why do you think your child feels as though things are not theirs?”, or “why do you think your child’s sense of him/herself is feeling threatened?” When children assume the “mine” position, it’s often because what they believed was theirs no longer feels so. In other words, their security is being questioned. By not sharing, taking from others, etc. they are attempting to reclaim what they feel they have lost. This is pretty common behavior when a new sibling comes along, or in this case, two new psuedo-siblings in the home daycare. This mom is right – her daughter is feeling like mom is no longer hers and she is attempting to reclaim that by not sharing with the home daycare kids who have “stolen” mom’s attention. Essentially, this two year old is stealing back!
So, in dealing with this situation, we want to avoid reacting punitively (i.e. time-outs, getting angry with your child, etc.). Instead, reacting in ways that will reassure your child’s security and stability is best. For example, in this case with the home daycare, it’s often helpful for your child to choose what they wouldn’t like to share with the kids and perhaps put those toys away in another room where the other kids won’t have access to them. This shows the child that they aren’t loosing everything that is theirs when the daycare children are in the home. Also, it’s important to explain and prepare children for new situations and process with them afterwards. With a two year old, explanations need to happen in a way that they will understand – through play. Show your child through pictures/toys that the kids that come for daycare have their own mommy, their own toys and their own home which they come from and go to before and after daycare. It is through play that you can help your child prepare for the situation and when the day is done, you can process with your child in the same way. If you think about it, feeling secure and stable comes with predictability and so explaining the situation (via play) prepares your child for the changing circumstances and therefore minimizes their sense of threat and unpredictability.
Also spend time recognizing your child positively when they do share (whether it’s during or outside of the home daycare setting). Notice and comment on how proud you are when your child shares with their sibling or other kids and model sharing for your child (purposely). You can do this with your partner or a friend by showing your child how you both share with one another and the positive outcomes that come of that. Most importantly though, I believe that children need to be regularly shown security and stability and this can be done in very simple ways. Set aside alone time with your child regularly – particularly after they’ve had to share you – so to reassure your commitment to them. Read a book together, have a snack, colour, anything for just the two of you.
Generally speaking, children’s behaviors are never random. Often the answer lies right in the “mine”.
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Thanks Kyla, I know how difficult this one can be.
You know, I did in-home daycare for about a year. Before we took on any additional children, though, I had my kids go through their stuff to decide what they were willing to share (that went in the playroom) and what they were not willing to share (that went in their bedrooms). Then I put a baby gate on the stairs and set the expectation with kids and families that the bedrooms were off limits. My kids were free to go there anytime (this was their house, after all) but “client” kids were not allowed.
That helped immeasurably, as my kids (especially my oldest who is quite intense) felt less threatened by the other children, and always had a place to go to get away and toys of their very own.
Another lifesaver what having a minivan and enough child carseats so that we could take outings (we went on picnics to the zoo about 3X/wk in summer!). This allowed for fun, excitement and – more importantly – neutral ground.