Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2003

Our 25month old son goes to a day care. We have been quite happy with the quality of the care he's got. However, lately, as he starts to develop his language skills, it appears to us that the philosophy of that day care (or perhaps some particular caregivers?) is to encourage kids to keep their ''virtual'' space. When our son is upset, and doesn't want anyone to be close to him, he would shout ''Space!'', sometime even other kids approaching him friendly and he wasn't ready he then cries ''Space!'' In a few cases the caregiver would acknowledge my son's such needs of space, and discourage the other kid even he/she had meant to be friendly. It was amusing to us at beginning but now it starts to be annoying because as much as we respect our kid to have his own personality/need (even at this age), what we really don't want is he to be anti-social. Another day care provider from a different place seemed to confirm such child education philosophy being taught in her training class, but she also seemed to indicate that it may have been ''over''-used. I wonder if any parent experience similar thing and whether I should be concerned about this issue from the day care. Another question, our son seems to be quite possessive lately especially when we just had our relatives came over and stayed with us for a few days. They have a daughter (my son's cousin) who is of similar age. Last time when both children met they seem to play well together. This time they also played, however, it was clouded by my son declaring everything to be his ''That is MY train!'' ''That is MY mommy'', ''This is MY table'', even as much as ''This is MY cat'' when his cousin was fond of our kitty. We were really embarrassed as in NO way this is the way we have been trying to educate him. We are also wondering if this is something he gets from day care, or is it just the growing phase when he just now realized what/who belongs to whom? If so, will this behavior go away, or should we take some special measures to correct it? What are the effective measures?
a very concerned mom

I have a 25-month-old too and it is very normal and common for them to be saying ''Mine'' about everything, including things they know are not theirs, like mommy's elbow! In fact there is a funny list of ''rules'' about toddler possession on the Parents Net website - check it out: http://parents.berkeley.edu/jokes/toddlerrules.html

Regarding ''space!'' -- I can see how this would be useful for a 2-year-old to express but personally I think it sounds rude. I would favor something a bit more sociable such as ''no thank you'' Ginger

About the use of ''mine'': welcome to being the parents of a two year old. You haven't taught him that, nor has anyone else. That is just what two year olds do. It's a very big developmental issue for them. It's not necessarily something he gets from daycare, and yes, he's going to declare everything is his, even when it actually belongs to someone else: he can't at this point distinguish what ''really'' belongs to him from what he just wants to belong to him. He will eventually grow out of it. It helps to help him sort out what is ''really his'' from what isn't; my son is now able to look at something and say ''not ours.'' It also helps, when another child is coming over to play with him, to put things that are really precious to your son out of sight (with his understanding), so he doesn't have to defend them. You can then make sure there are enough toys for both of them -- or better yet, have things that there are lots of (like blocks) or duplicates of (two similar balls), so that you can point out that there are enough for both of them to have some. But it takes a lot of teaching, and a lot of patience.

About the personal space issue: I'm not sure if it's being over-used at your daycare, but I do know why they're doing it: to keep the kids from being physically aggressive. It's better for a kid to yell ''space'' than to hit, kick, or bite a kid who comes close when he doesn't want them to. And this is an age when a lot of hitting, kicking, and biting happens, even from fairly gentle kids -- since most of them don't know any other way of saying ''I don't want to play with you right now.'' You might want to talk with the caregivers if you feel it's being overused; it's really important that you and the caregiver be on the same page with this. Karen

My daughter, who is 19 months and also in day care, started claiming ownership over everything with ''Mine''. I was a little shocked at first and little upset from the behavior because it seems possessive and rude, but it is actually age appropriate. When I asked her teacher about her behavior, she explained that they are teaching her to use her words. So that when other chidren come up to her and try to take away the toy she is playing with she can tell them ''Mine'' or ''My toy'' instead of letting the other kid take her toy and then just cry about it. She also said that toddlers at this age do not and cannot understand sharing until they learn ownership. It is actually teaching her to be assertive and that she does have some control over her environment, which is an important step in development. When she first started saying mine to everything in her hands we were not sure how to react. But, since I talked to her teacher, if she says ''mine'' to something we respond, for example, if it is hers we say ''yes, that is your baby'' But if it is not hers we say ''No, those are Daddy's glasses'', etc. I have noticed that the ''Mine'' has slowed down because now she knows what is hers and what is not. I hope this helps.

My son is almost 4 and has never been in daycare or preschool and did/does those same things you describe. We tought him to ask for space when he started pushing other kids around age 2. It has worked wonders for giving him a word to use that quickly and politely lets other kids (and their parents, who are often failing to recognize that their child is crowding him). I think we 'force' kids too often to play in small spaces with other kids and some kids just need more space than others. I know as an adult that I get overwhelmed with too many epople around me, so why shouldn't some kids feel that way too? Your son may just need some quiet time to deal with whatever event made him upset. If you are worried that he may not get the comfort from others when he needs it, you might ask the caregiver to say something like 'I hear you saying you need some space right now, so I am going to sit over here. But just come over if you want a hug or someone to talk to'.

With the Mine, that is really common at that age. In order for kids to learn how to share, they first go thru a stage of realizing that they actually have posessions of their own. So labeling everything as mine is a way to practice that concept. As embarassing as it can be in the moment, I tried to reframe things for him (and the other parties present) by saying something like 'Yes, the kitty lives in our house' and then 'your cousin is very interested in our kitty. We all love to pet her furry body.' Soon enough he will start to understand that just as he has posessions, so do other kids. Sharing can only come when he understands and has had experience with seeing that when he gives up a toy, it does come back to him. FOrcing sharing only breeds contempt I think. He will come to see that sharing brings rewards like trades for other toys, longer playtimes, and joint games. Jen