Stopping the "Grabs"

It's common for 4-year-olds to covet what other kids have. What's the best way to stop the toy grab?

Frank Heckers

Q: How can I get my 4-year-old to stop taking his older brother's toys? He does it constantly.

A: "It's natural for your preschooler to want to grab those toys," says Wanda Draper, Ph.D., Oklahoma City-based author of Your Child Is Smarter Than You Think. "It does not mean he's selfish. He just attaches more value to what the 'other guy' has. At this age, wanting something seems like a reason to take it."

Your job is to change your son's behavior, not his desires, adds Dr. Draper. "When you see your child grabbing, say, 'I know you really want to play with your brother's toy, but since it's his, you can't just take it. You need to ask him if he will share.'"

Be ready for the possibility of a tantrum erupting if your older son refuses to share his toy. Tell your 4-year-old that you know he is very disappointed, but you cannot make his brother share. Then give him time to cool down. When your younger son is ready, have him pick other toys he can play with instead.

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