How does a parent handle this situation? Is this just a fact of life? Can even young children learn how to share?
In these types of situations, kids need to know the right "script" through modeling. I'm not going to spend my life refereeing every squabble when they are perfectly capable of saying what needs to be said. I am not always going to be there with their friends, either. They need to learn appropriate ways of settling disagreements. Or they will be that selfish, unpleasant kid everyone remembers from their childhood - you know the one.
In our house, everyone has a handful of "special" toys that nobody else can touch without permission. These are in the kids' bedrooms. For the kids who share a bedroom, they each have special places in their bedrooms for their off-limits toys.
All other toys are fair game. If you aren't actively using it, you can't claim it. So in this case, Child A has dibs. Even if Child B is younger. Even if Child B was playing with it 5 minutes ago. Even if Child B loves that toy more than Child A does. Even if you are tired and just want the squabbling to stop.
What to do?
The child who wants the toy can be taught to say, "When you're done can I have a turn?" Yes, even toddlers can do this. With practice, this will become automatic and not forced by Mom.
This phrase gives power to the child who has the toy. A lot of time that is all they want anyway. So they say, "Yes, when I'm done." Then whenever they are done, they hand it to the waiting child. The waiting child is placated because they know their turn is coming. Their feelings have been heard and acknowledged.
|No, it doesn't always work out this smoothly.|
Lets face it. Kid's attention spans aren't that great. One child will get sick of the toy soon enough (when there isn't a power struggle taking place) or the waiting child will get bored enough waiting so that they will find something else to do.
I have heard the suggestion of getting multiples for each child to make things "fair". Not for our house. I wouldn't want (nor could I afford) 6 of everything in my house!
My kids know that sometimes one child gets something. Sometimes another child gets something. Sometimes one kid goes on a "date" with mom. Next time it is another child's turn. We are teaching our children to be gracious by saying "I'm happy for you" when somebody gets something they want. Every time a child is gracious like that, we praise them to the moon, reinforcing good manners.
Nobody is entitled to everything somebody else has. This is a fact of life you might as well teach them when they are young.
Does the waiting for a toy or not having your own toy cause frustration sometimes? OF COURSE! However this teaches children patience, conscientiousness, and the knowledge that they will not die if they don't get what they want whenever they want it. It teaches the idea of delayed gratification which is a life skill that is so necessary, but seen too infrequently.
Sometimes the children still complain that "Its not fair".
Then I tell them, "This is your chance to overcome adversity. You're welcome."