One of the phases that many parents hear about but don’t consider until their child is already in it is the “mine” phase. It’s a very common occurrence for young children to start experimenting with object permanence and ownership. This phase typically looks like your child declaring practically everything they see as “mine.” To make this phase less of a worry for you, here are a few tips on how to help a child get over their possessive behavior before it becomes a problem.
Set a Good Example
Arguably one of the most widely known—and most applicable—pieces of advice for raising young children is to display the behavior you expect out of them. Children use imitation to learn why things are done a certain way or because they trust you to do things correctly. If you can demonstrate how you share things on a regular basis, you can start to set the right example for them. Make sure you aren’t pulling things out of their hands and forcing them to share, as this just reinforces that aggressively possessive behavior.
Explain the Emotions Behind Sharing
Children often don’t get enough credit for how much they can understand. Telling them that they must share their things isn’t as effective if you don’t explain why it’s important. Say you want your child to donate some toys they no longer play with, but they keep insisting they should keep them. You can ease the transition by explaining why it’s important to share this way. If they didn’t have toys of their own, wouldn’t they be happy to receive toys from someone else? That would make them happy, and making others happy is a good thing.
Practice Turn-Taking in Safe Environments
A simple way to help your child get over their possessiveness is to practice sharing and taking turns somewhere where they know that their possessions aren’t at risk. Even if it’s only you and your child, ask them for a turn playing with what they are playing with so that they adjust to others asking. It will create more moments where you can teach them to share amicably and praise them for sharing as they should.
Allow for Mistakes Over Time
No child will get over the “mine” phase after they decide to take turns just once. It’s a learning process that takes time to unravel. The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t allow your frustration with the process to lead to you lashing out and yanking away their possessions. This has the opposite effect you want and doesn’t teach them anything. Mistakes and slip-ups are OK, so long as you gently correct the behavior and praise them for doing the right thing.