Is “MINE!!!” your toddler’s favourite word?

When my girls were each around 2 years old, they went through the “MINE” stage. The piece of cheese I was trying to eat, “MINE.” A friend’s favourite toy, “MINE.” The TV remote, “MINE.” I could go on and on. 

Some days it felt like they said this word at least 100 times. It was hard because each time one of our girls reached this stage, we were excited that they were starting to talk more and use their words, but at the same time, it was exhausting trying to help them to understand that they couldn’t have everything they laid their eyes on. 

In these moments, we had to remind ourselves that screaming “MINE” didn’t mean they were trying to be bad, rude to their friends, or frustrate us.

“MINE” = New Developmental Milestone

Saying “mine” means a new developmental milestone has been reached – understanding possession. 

This is a new skill toddlers are beginning to learn, and just like with all of the other skills they have learned, we need to help them learn to navigate this skill.

When children are learning how to walk and talk, we model these skills, and support and encourage them as they learn these new skills; we need to do the same thing as they learn how possession works! 

How can we model, support, and encourage toddlers as they navigate this new skill of understanding possession?

3 Tips to Help Your Toddler Understand Possession

1. Narrate the Rules

Your toddler is just starting to understand the difference between something that is theirs and not theirs. Your toddler will begin to understand the toy rules and explanations from you over time. 

Narrating the rules might sound like: 

  • “Yes, that is yours! You are right!”
  • “This toy is Tommy’s. He is letting you play with it, but we have to give it back when we are done.”
  • “It’s tough to wait for the truck. It’s both your and your sister’s toy. You need to wait until she is done to have a turn.”

Narration is such a powerful tool for helping our kids learn new skills. As they hear us narrate over and over what it means for something to be theirs, they will understand this concept, and we will start to hear them screaming “MINE” less. 

2. Don’t Force Sharing

When toddlers start understanding possession, it can be easy to associate this skill with sharing. As adults, they seem like very similar concepts, but for our toddlers, sharing is a whole other developmental milestone that often doesn’t come until later

You don’t need to force your little toddler to share – trust that they will learn this skill with time. Choosing a few “special toys,” they never have to share can be helpful. The rest of the toys are for turn-taking. 

3. Take Away the Power of the Toy

Avoid timers for toys and the pressure to share. Children are usually more likely to drop the toy and move on to the next one when the pressure is taken off. Make it a house rule that whoever has it first can play until they are done, and then the next person gets a turn until they are done. 
Turn-taking is a great first step to sharing. It takes away the power of the toy, encourages independence, and even teaches patience!

Example of Turn-Taking

Your daughter is playing with a toy that your son wants. Your son can go up to your daughter and ask for a turn. If they are not verbal, you can do this with them. The first child is free to give up the toy right then but does not have to.

Instead, the child may say, “You can have the doll when I’m done,” and continue playing. When she is ready to do something else, she turns the toy over to the waiting child. 

If the current toy holder doesn’t give up the toy until bedtime, the second child gets the first pick of the toy in the morning.

You can see in this example that by encouraging turn-taking, rather than setting a timer to give up the toy, the daughter doesn’t feel pressured to give up the toy – which often leads to more challenging behaviours. 

This is just one example of how turn-taking could look. It will take time, practice, and patience! 

“MINE” Is A Good Thing

When you hear your toddler scream “MINE,” remember: this is good. This means they are learning and reaching new milestones. You can help them learn how to take turns. 

Understanding why behaviour like this happens is such an important step toward teaching them how to behave in new ways! If you’re looking for more support with challenging behaviour, like hitting, biting, whining, rudeness and more, check out our bestselling online course, Parenting Little Kids!

WRITTEN BY

Jess VanderWier

Registered Psychotherapist & Mom of 3

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WRITTEN BY

Paige Shiels

Early Childhood Educator

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