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“We have to share!”

If you’ve uttered this phrase recently, you probably have a toddler. And you’ve probably been met with confusion, anger or meltdowns.

Sharing, as you might gather, is a difficult concept for young children. Most experts actually think it’s wrong to force young children to share: developmentally speaking, they just don’t have the capacity. However, by age 4 children begin to understand the concept of sharing and can actually begin to put it to use. PHEW, right?:) 

Below are 5 techniques to help begin or move along this process that can often seem impossible. 

1. Don’t force sharing. 

Forcing children to share can delay the development of sharing skills. Instead, introduce the concept of taking turns. You might even try using a timer to help show your child how to take turns. They’ll be reassured that sharing doesn’t mean giving away their toy forever.

2. Put special toys away. 
Even us adults have belongings we don’t want to share with our friends—and that’s ok. Before your child’s friend comes over for a playdate, ask your child to put away any items he doesn’t want to share.

3. Create opportunities for playtime with other kids.
Learning to play well with others is not a one-time lesson. It takes time and practice.Just being around other children and interacting during play, whether at the park or through more organized playgroups, gives children opportunities to practice sharing. Putting children in school at a young age is so beneficial for them to learn to share as they are reminded of this throughout each school day.

4.Praise positive behavior.
It’s easy to react to unwanted behavior but responding to positive behavior—when it happens—will get your little one to understand that sharing is a good thing. Use descriptive praise when your child does share: let her know how happy you are and point out that she’s made that other child happy, too.

Each child develops at their own pace.
Don’t worry if your child isn’t sharing when you think she should be. Sharing—like many other skills—is learned as children’s social, emotional and cognitive development increases. This is an important concept to remember with many other developmental goals you have for your child. Every child develops differently and sometimes, it just takes a bit longer for some kids. :) 

Those little ones under three are delightful … cute and curious, learning so much, so quickly, and with sudden mood changes you  wonder what entity took over your child’s body! You were once a great parent, and in the face of toddler meltdowns, whining, and irritability you might wonder what happened to the confident, calm, loving parent you once were. Good news- you are not alone! Tantrums are especially challenging at this age and happen at some point in every family- even the most "perfect" families. 

Managing Emotions

During this time of life, your child’s body is learning to self-regulate. This can often take time, actually years to attain. Limited language skills, egocentric perspective, and being driven by their own will create strong reactions in their bodies. These strong feelings and reactions manifest in melt downs, and often physical behaviors like hitting or biting. Unfortunately, language skills are too new to access when strong emotions overtake your little one.

Here are some suggestions to help when in the throes of a tantrum, or even just managing irritability or whining:

  1. Identify the underlying cause: hungry, overwhelmed, tired, getting sick?
  2. Do not talk much … hum, sing softly, get eye contact if possible (don’t force it), touch
  3. Get close and on the child’s level
  4. Empathy—say simple things, “Wow, you have big feelings about that.” “It is hard not to have X now.”
  5. Add some imagination—“I wish I had a magic wand to wave and you could have six trains all to yourself”.
  6. If s/he is hurting herself or you in some way, gently stop it (block the hand, etc.). “It’s okay to be mad. And no one gets hurt with your anger. We are all safe here.
  7. Parents find different methods to help bring clamness. Often taking big breaths with child, humming or singing, holding them if desired...
  8. Once calm, do not refer to the tantrum behavior or the trigger. Provide warmth and connection, and go on with your day. When it is over, it is over. They bounce back quickly … something we can learn from them.

Tantrum Prevention

  1. Rhythm and routine are important to this age child. Be consistent with meals, sleep times, etc.
  2. Being hungry, tired, not knowing what is happening next, too many transitions, going too fast for their pace is stressful for children. Identify your child’s triggers, and minimize them as much as possible.
  3. Transitions—provide as much information about transitions as possible. It is challenging for children to change what they are focused on, so advance information is useful. They cannot tell time, but saying, “We are leaving soon. You can slide three more times before we go.”
  4. Give your child some power within the context of your loving guidance. Offer choices that achieve your goal, “We can be horses and run to the car, or be birds and fly to the car?”
  5. Tell or show your child what s/he CAN do, rather what s/he cannot do. “You can jump on these pillows here. We are cozy and quiet in our bed.”
  6. Be playful—sometimes distraction or engagement in something interesting or pleasurable serves to distract from the conflict before it escalates.
  7. Choose your battles—Avoid power struggles. Your child will just get stuck there, as well as some of us big people! Make safety a priority, use distraction and playfulness to re-focus their attention, and eliminate potentially frustrating situations (close the bathroom door, move the dog food, etc.).
  8. Change things up when you suspect your little one is heading downhill—Connect, play, add water play or bubbles, etc. Sometimes hugging, swinging around and laughter is all that is needed to ward off a meltdown.

You'll be glad to know that many tantrums are avoidable. Whatever you do, don't give up and don't give in! An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
If you're afraid your child will still be in diapers by the time he or she gets married, you'll take comfort in knowing you are not alone and other parents havealso been through the same. I was able to interview and find sugguestionsfrom these Denver moms who have been through the ropes and felt the struggle. They've found creative and original ways to make potty training easier — and more fun!

Sing Their Praises.

We made up a little song that we sang every time our daughter sat on the potty. She loved it. When she finished, we would sing a different song identifying what she had done and telling her how proud we were of her. We also included several rounds of applause. It wasn't too long before she used the potty every time!
-- Christine

Celebrate. Don’t coax or reprimand.

With both my kids, praise was huge. Coaxing them to get on the potty or reprimanding them for hiding behind the couch to poop in their pants will get you nowhere. And some kids respond more intensely than others to harsh tones, making it even more important to accept mistakes and put all your energy into celebrating their successes. If it helps, consider it a Zen meditation on the acceptance of imperfection that you then can apply to the rest of your life. -- Amy 

Find what works.

When figuring out how to start potty training your child, first find out what works for him or her. Maybe a sticker chart is the way to go because your child is a very visual learner or enjoys the public praise and the ritual of putting a sticker on the chart. Maybe he or she could care less about that, but one M&M for #1 and two for #2 is the magic motivator. Maybe getting rid of all the diapers on a certain date works, like leading up to an upcoming vacation or on a big birthday. (Yes, I’ve done two of these in my house.)

Do what works. And work with family members and child care providers to get on the same page. Don’t worry about what anyone else might think about what works for your family. -- Julia 

Be OK with setbacks.

There will be setbacks. Lots of setbacks. Potty training accidents will happen. One day, you’re the best mom in the world because you got your almost-threenager to do pee pee in the giant scary public potty. And then he refuses to use any potty for a week, and you’re sure you’ll be sending him to high school in pull-ups.

Big successes don’t mean you’re all done, and neither do setbacks—no matter how big or small they seem. In the words of the immortal Dory, just keep swimming.

The bottom line? Be patient, be kind, and know that you’ll both get there eventually. And one day you’ll look back at this stage of life, diaper explosions and all, with wistful nostalgia. -- Jessica 

Set up target practice.

We put a flushable item, such as Cheerios or Fruit Loops, in the toilet. (You can also use shaving cream or colored ice cubes.) The game for our son was to aim and shoot. Rewards were based on accuracy and number of downed Cheerios (Fruit Loops added the extra challenge of shooting a particular color). It was fun and challenging, and did wonders for his accuracy! With BMs, we told him the game was to send in the backup troops (no pun intended) to finish the job with torpedoes. I doubt this would work with girls, but Alex took less than a week to be fully day-trained. — Roxann


As you go through this often treturous process, try to keep perspective. Some children are very motivated and learn to use the toilet quickly. Others need more time before they completely master this developmental task. The staff at St. John's are ready to be on board when you are and will support your child along the way. Remember that both you and your child are doing the best you can. Before long, your child will be diaper-free and ready for the next adventure!

As the beginning of the year is in full force, one thing we as teachers know is how hard it is for you parents to leave your babies, especially if they are clinging onto you, not wanting you to leave. And even if you do finally say those good byes and leave, you might be in the same spot again the next day, perhaps being even worse. You might find yourself desperately looking on Google for “separation anxiety tips for toddlers and preschoolers”.  One thing that has to be comforting to know is we as teachers deal with this with most of our kids as some point and have collected a handful of tips that seem to be helpful. I hope this can help you!


Separation anxiety is tough. The parents who are going through this are nodding, possibly even reading through eyes filled with tears. I am extremely sensitive to this subject. As a child, I had separation anxiety issues off and on and remember the feeling of thinking the world was going to end when mom or dad left the room. As teachers, we always try to scorch the fear that parents might have that we will allow their child be at school all day while they are crying the entire time. I assure you that we will not. We want this experience to be a positive one. We want them to feel safe and loved.

How we handle separation anxiety at St. Johns:

We open our classroom doors each morning and the teacher greats each child with loving arms. As suggested to the parents before the first day, we recommend consistency with the drop off whether it be a “drop, kiss and go” or a bit longer with some time spent getting their child settled. After the parent leaves, we help by gently taking the child, giving him love, and getting him involved in an activity. This gets easier as the year goes on because we have a good idea what activities they enjoy. For some children, this process takes 5 minutes or less while with other children it can take up to an hour and for others, it takes something unique and more involved. It is from these sweet kiddos that we teachers have gained tricks and tips to deal. 

I was able to get examples from a few of the ELC teachers here at St. Johns as to what their favorite and most effective tricks and techniques have been throughout their years in the classroom…

Toddler 1

Many parents have come to believe that the “sneak out” method is best for drop off as their child doesn’t even see them go and they can often get out without seeing any tears. However, I have learned that for some children it is important to keep them informed as to what is happening. Therefore, letting your child know that you are leaving and even letting them to know when you are coming back…for instance, “I am leaving now to go to work. But I will be back after nap”. This allows for your child to be aware that you are leaving but also informed of when you will be back. This can be challenging in the beginning but as time goes on the child begins to understand that you WILL come back when you say which makes you leaving just that much easier.  

Toddler 3

The longer you draw it out, the harder it becomes to leave! I have learned through the years, and even with my own children, how important it is to communicate with your child about what is happening, communicate with the teacher as to when you are ready for them to take your child and then leaving the room! 

Toddler 2

Keeping a consistent routine is key for kids because it allows your child to build a routine that they can count on. So, keeping a short and simple good bye is age appropriate. For instance, a hug and a kiss, saying goodbye and then leaving. Routine is the key word here and makes such a difference in the minds and hearts of the little ones and they learn you are actually NOT abandoning them but rather saying goodbye for a few short hours. 

Also, in the beginning of the year I ask my parents to provide a family picture that I hang up in the classroom at the kids eye level. The reason for this is not just for the teachers to gawk at the cuteness of all the families, but also for our kiddos to be able to see  their families when they get overwhelmed. I have been doing this for a few years now, along with many of the other teachers, and believe it to be very effective in comforting kids who just need to see familiar faces of those they love! 

Have we missed anything? What worked for you? Please share with us. We hope this helps you as we all navigate through the first few weeks of school…