"No! Mine! I had it first!"
"HEY! She took my bear!"
Sound familiar? Sharing squabbles are very common among toddlers and preschoolers, who just don't yet understand why everything they see or want isn't automatically theirs. In preschool classrooms, teachers stock many multiples of the most popular toys whenever possible. They also work with the children on both calming and turn-taking strategies.
When conflict does erupt (it's inevitable), they help kids through these steps. They work both in classrooms and at home — or the playground, or wherever you are!
Identify the issue. Without judgment, ask both children to say what happened: "It looks like we have a problem. Tell me about it." Repeat each child's version back to her to confirm it.
Brainstorm solutions. The sparring kids should be involved in this step! Ask them how they think they could solve the problem. Again, listen to all their suggestions without judging them. You might even write them down to show you are serious.
- Choose a response together and try it. Once you have a list of possibilities, encourage the children to agree on one to try. Repeat it back to them so they're both clear: "Allie will put the bear in the high chair and Zoe will feed him some soup. Next, Allie will give him a drink of milk." Remind them that they can try something different if this plan doesn't work out.
If you use this method consistently, you help your child learn to solve problems on her own — an important social and cognitive skill, and one that affords you a little extra peace and quiet as well!