How can I encourage my toddler to share?

Q: My toddler grabs anything in sight -- keys, phones, handbags, other kids' toys -- and yells "Mine!" How can I put a stop to this?

A: You can't. It's perfectly normal toddler behavior, and although you can introduce the concept of sharing by playing games that involve taking turns, your child is too young to share willingly. Children this age are naturally possessive, and they don't have a clue about other people's feelings. Unless there's a safety issue, don't pry an item from your daughter's hands; you'll only teach her that it's okay to use physical force. If she takes a toy from another child, apologize on her behalf and try to distract her so you can give the toy back to its owner. Before a playdate, discuss the grabbing issue with the other kid's mom and decide how you're going to handle it. Agreeing on a course of action in advance will make it easier to sit back and not intervene unless it's really necessary. --Sally Lee

Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the September 2004 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009