Q. My 1-year-old lets other kids take toys from him without protesting at all. Does this mean he is too docile? If so, what can I do about it?
A. Your son is so young right now that we can't make too many assumptions about his reactions. By nature he may be a laid-back, low-intensity kid and simply may not mind when other children "share" his toys. This doesn't mean that he won't become more assertive as he gets older.
If you are concerned that his lack of assertiveness reflects a lack of confidence that will limit him as he grows, look for ways to be his coach.
It's important to find that delicate balance between being an advocate and fighting your child's battles for him, which is likely to lead to less self-confidence, not more. Beginning when he's around age 2, you can also role-play situations with him. Let him play the part of both the child whose toy is taken and the one who takes the toy so he can see how both roles feel. With your encouragement, he will begin to develop the skills and strategies that he can use to stand up for himself.
Claire Lerner, LCSW, is a child development specialist at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit promoting the healthy development of babies and toddlers (zerotothree.org).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2005.