When there are two toddlers fighting over a toy, things can get a bit dicey. You want to make sure that your child isn’t the aggressor, while at the same time ensuring that your child isn’t getting abused by the other child. The secret to sorting it out is to determine aggressiveness versus assertiveness.
With aggression, the toddler is infringing on someone else’s territory. The other child may have been happily playing with the toy when your child comes out of nowhere, sees that it looks interesting and attempts to snatch it away for himself. With assertiveness, your child may simply be trying to protect his own toy from the other child.
One approach that some parents take is to step back and let the kids work it out. This usually means that it is the survival of the fittest. The aggressors win here, since whichever kid pulls the hardest, pushes the most or grabs the fastest gets to keep the toy. They get rewarded for their aggressive behavior. In contrast, more passive children may withdraw from social play or become aggressive themselves.
I’m not big on the just throw the toddlers in the pot and see who rises to the top. Instead, I prefer to monitor the play, step in where needed and do a little work to help keep the harmony. Here are some playtime strategies.
Try to match children together based on personalities. If you know that two particular kids always get into it, join them on the floor to create a new dynamic.
Show the toddlers how to play together with a toy. For example, they could roll a car back and forth to each other.
Give the toy a time out. If the fighting can’t be resolved, I give the toy a time out. This way neither child wins, and it reinforces that fighting isn’t rewarded. After a bit I’ll ask if they think the toy can play without causing any trouble.
Teach about taking turns. Give each child a toy. Then, set a fun timer and announce that when the sound goes off, they have to trade the toys. Do this a couple of times back and forth until they get bored and wander off together or the timer drives you insane.