Every time we visit friends of family my toddler wants to take the other child's toys home with him and it always turns into a big screaming match. How can I negotiate with him? It's becoming so awkward I've started turning down offers of play dates, Wulguru

It is hard to learn this sometimes; all children certainly go through this stage of wanting to take others toys home with them.  Some find it harder than others.  He really needs to learn this, I can understand you trying to avoid the situation however for his ability to learn this you need a few things.  One is the opportunity, so yes; you will need to go on the play dates.  If it helps, just mention to the mum the difficulty your having so she will understand when the play date ends and you leave quickly.  Or else you could set up a few test play dates with a friend you feel more comfortable with trying out my strategies.

Before the play date and again on the drive there talk to your toddler about ‘how hard it is to leave toys behind that you really like, however they are ‘jacks’ and we need to leave them with Jack.’  Tell him ‘when its time to leave he will tidy up, you will take him by the hand, say goodbye, walk out and go home’.  I am a big believer in setting children up for success by telling them the behaviour you expect first.

Plan your leaving time, most children play together really well for about 1 ½ hrs then the situation starts to disintegrate, by 2 ½ hrs all the squabbling is happening.  So plan to go at the 1 ½ hr mark, he will handle it better earlier rather than later and tired.  Now, when it’s time to leave, I want you to give your son a 10 minute warning, this means go over to him, rub him on the back, make eye contact and tell him its nearly time to leave, to finish up playing his game and we will soon tidy up and say goodbye.  Two minutes before you are too leave go back to your son and tell him it’s time to tidy up the toys, praise and help him to tidy,  then stick to your word and your plan.  Say goodbye, take his hand and leave.  Do not delay by chatting.  If or when he starts to get upset about going or not taking the toys, give him one explaination and ONLY one about them being Jacks toys and that I know you want to take them home but they are not yours.  At this point there is no more negotiation, or talking to him about the toys.  If he grabs and refuses to let go, pry them out of his fingers and pick him up and take him to the car. (whatever you do, no not let him take them to the car or home out of sympathy or trying to quiet the tantrum)

Try not to be embarrassed by his tantrum, tears or screams.  Remain calm as though it doesn’t matter to you however you feel, be a good actress.  Wave a nice cheery goodbye yourself and take him to the car.  If you have a lot of things to take home, I would plan ahead and get them in the car first before you do the goodbye, so you can make a quick exit.  Once you get to the car, ignore the tantrum.  Say nothing until he quiets.  When quiet just say ‘ it is hard to leave toys behind when you want to take them home, but they are not ours’.  If he has coped better than you expected then praise his coping well with leaving.

I would also seriously look at in the home situation does he always get what he wants?  Do you negotiate a lot over things with him?  Do you give him things just to avoid the tantrums/screaming?  Because all these will underlie his belief that he gets to have the toys and if he tantrums loud enough he will.

Related Articles:

Toddler Demands

Kids & Behaviour 

Two Year Old Tantrum 

Calming a Whinging baby

Babies & Behaviour

Nicole Pierotti

Written by Nicole Pierotti

© Copyright 2012. No reprinting or publishing without permission from writer. For permission or further information contact nicole@babysmiles.com.au.

One Response to Q&A: Tantrums Over Toys

  1. Interesting post! Parents really have hard time to handle this kind of tantrum. I’m looking for these tips which I can use to my 2-year old baby. Thanks for sharing this information.