Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I See It, I Want It, I Take It.


My three year old started pre-school last year at age 2 and with that came the "take it" behavior. I see it, I want it, and I take it no matter who is playing with it. She will play tug of war with her friends over whatever it is until one of them wins. Push her way in to take a stroller from someone. If she loses the battle, she doesn't cry, fit or otherwise react, she just moves on to something else. How can I work with her to realize it isn't appropriate behavior to take toys from other people?



Dear Nissa,

What you describe is normal, age appropriate behavior. I know all children don't do it, but that has to do with temperament. You can not teach her that this is inappropriate. She does not have the brain development to understand appropriate and inappropriate. All you can do is kindly and firmly supervise. When she grabs something, intervene and distract. When I say kindly and firmly, this means to avoid saying a word. She won't understand your words anyway and the words most parents say at times like this sound like shame. This starts the long process of the development of doubt and shame in children at the time they could be developing a healthy sense of autonomy (according the child development specialist Erik Erikson). You are lucky that she doesn't have a temper tantrum when she doesn't get her way. (Brace yourself, because that too is a normal, age appropriate behavior that may be coming.) Just keep supervising, distracting, and redirecting. Eventually, she will catch on.

By the time she is 3 1/2 to 4 she will be able to understand reasoning. To avoid power struggles at this age, be sure you are prepared with lots of skills to get her involved in decision making. The books Positive Discipline the First Three Years and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers are filled with information on child development and age appropriate behavior as well as parenting skills you can use to help your child develop a sense of capability, self-discipline, responsibility, problem-solving skills.


Jane Nelsen, Ed.D

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