Why my toddler doesn’t want to share!?!

Why my toddler doesn’t want to share!?!

Is there a reason why my angelic, soft haired little toddler turns into a red faced, foot stamping, screaming entity if I ask him to share?

The answer could be more obvious than you think

His brain is not wired to share

Research shows that your toddler’s brain is not wired to share. Play is the most important thing for a toddler and the toy they are absorbed in at that time is pivotal to their world.  To ask them to share it therefore, is like asking you to share a good book after 5 minutes of absorbed reading. You would feel confused, interrupted and frustrated. Wouldn’t you?!

Why then, should we expect our children to do what we would find extremely difficult, somewhat unfair and unnecessary?

He feels a strong sense of ownership

Toddlers feel a much stronger sense of ownership to their objects than we do as adults. They therefore find it legitimately challenging to share their belongings, especially favourite items.  Research shows that your child does not understand that if someone else plays with his toy that it is still his. He feels that for the toy to be his, he must have it in his hands. Therefore he feels he might lose it if someone else is holding it.

Taking your child to toddler group or sending them to nursery lets them socialise with other toddlers, teaching them the concept of sharing and turn-taking. By using the toddlers group or nursery’s toys they understand that not all toys belong to them exclusively. That each child has equal rights to every toy; thus better understanding the meaning of ownership.

He has not yet mastered the cognitive skill of empathy

Toddlers have no ability to see things from adults’ perspective and let’s be honest, sometimes that ability is not something that adults find easy to master either.  Why then should we expect it, just instantly, in our children?

Instead of asking our children to share, we could encourage them to empathise by saying such things as: “It looks like Elizabeth is interested in the toy you have”.  If he isn’t ready to hand it over then ask him to tell Elizabeth that he is playing with it but that she can have it when he is finished.  In other words we respect people’s time with stuff.

If he does share then let him know that it made you feel good when he shared.

Allow him to have special toys that are his alone

There will be times when your toddler absolutely has to share. For example if he is hosting a playdate.  Tell him so and point out that this is what being a good host means.  However, allow him to put away special toys that he really doesn’t want to share. This will show him respect and encourage the same in return.


*The good news is that this stage will pass. Your child will not always be possessive. As he gets older and starts to socialise more, he will learn the social and cognitive skills necessary to allow him to become more apt to share



Learn to share

Toddlers learn to share through socialising