I don't always make my child share.
Bringing a rainbow-colored kickball to the park seemed like a great idea. But moments after Austin lifted it from under the stroller, a swarm of toddlers appeared, each vying for a chance to get their grubby little hands on it. "No! No! No!" Austin bellowed as the kids tried to swipe it from him. Most of the time I'm all about taking turns, but in this case I literally stooped low enough to bat a 4-year-old's hands away -- and not gently -- as he attempted to nab the ball. Effective? Sure, but 15 minutes later, as I recounted the story to my husband, I felt ridiculous. Seriously, what kind of mom spars with toddlers?
GIVE UP THE GUILT "A 20-month-old is just starting to understand the concept of sharing," says Gibbon. But no matter what age kid you have, it's usually better not to bring playthings to the park that are bound to be total kid magnets. Even the most easygoing turn-takers can get freaked out if other children are grabbing for their treasured stuff.
MAKE IT BETTER Don't frustrate your child (or yourself) further by expecting too much. In the meantime, get his learning on at his next playdate: Try setting a timer. Explain that one child will have a chance to play with the toy until the "beep," and then it's the other kid's turn. Keep the intervals short -- no more than one or two minutes. You can keep setting and resetting at quicker intervals, so by the end half the challenge is being able to move the object back and forth quickly enough.
Originally published in the July 20111 issue of Parents magazine.