* This article is an excerpt from and is edited based on a lecture & consultation meeting titled “How to Communicate with and Discipline Small Children” which was held in 2018.
* This article is also available in Japanese and Chinese.
Q.: My child always tries to grab other children’s toys. (1.5 years old)
My child turned 1.5 years old and started to play with other children. S/he always tries to grab the toys of his/her friends’. I tell him/her, “Return it to your friend after you play with it,” or “Your friend is playing with it, so let’s ask him/her later,” depending on the situation. But I really don’t know what to do.
You are addressing your child in a very gentle way, with a child-oriented mind. With phrases like “Excuse me, can you let him/her play with it?” or “Your friend is playing with it now, so let’s ask him/her later,” you are saying what your child can’t yet say with words and sorting out the relationship there. This is actually very important.
Children under age 3 still cannot play well enough just among themselves. If you leave them on their own, they would start taking things from the others. They still cannot use the common language in playing such as “Can I borrow?” very well.
At age 3 and onwards, children are able to make easy rules among themselves. Children share common rules such as “Let’s take turns,” or “Later,” and communicate among themselves, which enables them to play on their own.
Children are not interested in the toys. They are interested because “playing” is happening there. For example, a child often tries to grab the toy another child is playing with, even though s/he has the same one. This happens because the child is not trying to take the toy but trying to take the “playing”. So, what is important for a child under age 3 is the person who would play together with him/her with the toy. That would be his/her parent.
When a child is playing with his/her parent, many children would gather because the operation of toys and communication of words are happening there. So, those children would try to grab the toys, but the parent can sort out the “playing” by words such as “My child is still playing with the toy, so can you wait,” or “Why don’t you play with this instead.”
Then, some of the children would be satisfied after being talked to. When some other children come to grab the toys and the parent interprets with words “S/he is still playing with it,” some of the children may be able to give their toys in the manner: “Now I’m satisfied, so you can have it.”
As they experience these kinds of interactions repeatedly, they learn the rules such as “Wait”, “Later” and “Here you are.”
Speaker: Ms. Ryoko Uchida, psychology counselor for children
Since 1973, Ms. Uchida has continuously held counseling sessions at multiple healthcare centers in Tokyo. In addition, since 1998, she has presided over <<Momo’s Room; Child Counseling>> and has held group consultation for truancy, delinquency and withdrawal. Ms. Uchida is also a part-time lecturer at Rikkyo University, a widely known advisor for NHK Radio phone counseling on children’s psychology and a speaker at numerous seminars at child care circles, parents’ groups on truant children, and kindergartens across Japan.
(Translated by Wakana Goto)