I always try to spend sometime with each child by themselves, read a story, do some drawing, anything. I know it sounds backwards but if they don’t feel they have to compete for your attention hopefully they’ll get on better. Or at least that’s the hope!
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It’s hard to teach toddlers to share, so I’ve taught mine to trade. If one has something the other wants, I encourage him to find something to give his brother in exchange. It cuts down on fighting and grabbing, and they are learning to give and not just take.
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We’ve found it helpful to talk about empathy, how the other person feels, and how we can “fill their bucket” by being kind. Last year we read The Giving Tree and talked about how we should be kind even when others are hurtful. We also have the kids select a few of their toys each Christmas to “share” with the less fortunate… We focus on sharing and being kind regardless of how the other kid is behaving… doing “the right thing” even when we don’t feel like it. Also, we tell the older one that he has to lead by example… that hius brother will learn how to be kind as he sees it modeled to him
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When our second child was born, we got our eldest, who was 18mo then, to start helping us with the baby. We saw that he started to treat her as his own baby and would always bring her stuff and take care of her. When cousins came visiting he would treat them the same way as if he was older and had the responsibility upon him to be a good host. When our third child was born, he was even older and when baby number four came around, he taught his sisters to take care of their siblings. They are a little gang and I found that the less I got into their fights or hussles, the more caring and well behaved they were. Just expect good from them and treat them with empathy and understanding. We also found that sometimes when they really didn’t want to share, we’d let them keep the toy and let the younger one to get distracted. The younger kids forget easily but the elder ones feel bad longer.
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We emphasize good things my daughters do for each other like little one bringing juice to her older sister, or older daughter making simple toys for toddler. They always say: Thank you to each other. We also try to include both of them in activities we do, even if little one can’t follow up. Then big sister jumps in to help.
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Mihaela runs Best Toys 4 Toddlers blog and loves to come up with new ideas how to use old toys her 2 daughters keep leaving on the floor to slip over. She loves them despite the fact that they call her mommy few hundred times a day, and it makes her nuts.