Normal toddlers don't want to share

Parent Q&A

July 26, 1998

Q. In reference to a recent letter concerning a toddler's inability to share, I am sending you a copy of the "Toddler's Creed."

We were blessed with three children, of whom we could not be more proud, and one "perfect" granddaughter, age 10. She has a wonderful mother who delights in their relationship and is teaching her how to be a terrific human being.

Hope the previous writer sees the creed. It is a delightful piece - and absolutely true. Fortunately, this stage usually passes away in good time.

"Toddler's Creed"

If I want it, it's mine.

If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine.

If I can take it away from you, it's mine.

If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.

If it's mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.

If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.

If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

A. What a delightful creed. It made me laugh because it is so appropriate. Toddlers are wonderful, if you don't take them too personally.

Many cultures seem to feel that toddlers are in direct competition with adults and should be curbed. I don't, for this is a time of rapid and exciting learning. They are learning so much about themselves and how to relate to the world around them. Of course, they feel that the world is theirs and they'd better fight to keep it that way.

This is the time when self-esteem is in the making. A child who has a sure sense of himself as important will have enough ego to care about others. He can afford to become altruistic, to care about not hurting others. Is this what some of the teen-age terrorists have missed?

For a child to have a sure sense of himself, he must also have a sure sense of his own limits - when to stop. Discipline in the second year is absolutely critical and is the second most important thing a parent can do for a toddler. (Love is the first.)

Discipline is not punishment; it means teaching a child when and where to stop himself. This takes many years, but the second and third years are critical for establishing a firm base of self-control.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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