He’s touching it!

He’s breaking it!

He’s doing it again!

Look! Look! MOMMY!!!

Uh, uh, uh, wait, no…no…don’t do that!

Mommy, HELP!!!


This has become the soundtrack of our days.

Katie’s difficulty with sharing is becoming a huge problem for us.

She is, shall we say, particular. She likes things just so (yes, I take full responsibility for this!).

And Matthew is 14 months old and wants nothing more than to touch, taste, and be a general nuisance to his big sister.

She has no trouble sharing with her peers, but not so much with her little brother.

She wants all of her toys to be off limits and wants to play with his as well.

I know that this is normal, but my head is about to explode, so I’m asking begging for your help.

I’ve tried distraction, using a timer for taking turns, completely separating them, and pleading, all with minimal results.

I want to respect her need for her own space and teach her the importance of respecting others, all while fostering a positive relationship between the two of them.

But, what I’m dong isn’t working.

So, I need tips, approaches, and commiseration.

Or a volunteer to come over and watch them so I can go take a long bubble bath with a glass of wine. Daily.


  1. Ah, the elusive daily warm bubble bath. Wish I could offer to help but I don't think I live near you.
    But I live near enough to your LIFE to offer commiseration.

    I had an expert advise me on this very issue (well, I paid money to take her class, but I could do an entire blog on what a waste that was).

    She told me to "Catch my kids sharing and compliment them." Her theory was that they would then continue this behavior.

    So the first time I "caught" my son being generous, I said, "Jack. I like the way you shared your hammer with your little sister."

    Jack gave me a wicked look and snatched the hammer out of Karly's hands. Then bonked her on the head with it.

    Good luck. (and I hope you get that bath.)

  2. Stacey

    I'm so sorry! I hate this phase. My oldest was so particular and would totally freak out if anyone touched his special toys. I got him a little backpack to carry around that he could keep all of his priceless toys in that he didn't want anyone else to touch. It helped a lot. He could be protective and keep them with him at all times. He did eventually grow out of it. Or maybe he just got old enough to hide his prize possessions higher than his siblings could reach.

  3. SurferWife

    Oh. Ummm. If I can be honest, I totally blocked that out of my memory. So, I have no clue how I handled it and can't offer any advice. BUT it was indeed a phase and it passed. At least in our house it did. If I had to harbor a guess at what I did, it probably included threats of chicken drumsticks flying in the air at their heads.

  4. Child A had a horrible time sharing with playmates. After too much craziness where I was ready to ship him to Siberia, when friends came, he could pick three toys that were TOO special to be shared. But they were put AWAY. Anything out in plain site MUST be shared.

    I think allowing her to put her most special toys away safely will help. But she has to agree that they cannot be in Matthew's site otherwise he will want them.

    There are a few more radical approaches, but you might start with a gentle one first.

    And no, the radical approaches do NOT include child sellage.

  5. Hutch

    I don't have kids, but I DO have a younger brother. Speaking from my experience, I didn't want much to do with him except dressing him up in my baby clothes (yes, there are pics) and pretending he was a doll. This changed when he could actually hold a conversation and then he wouldn't shut up. We get along great now though :)

  6. Alicia

    Ohhhh no! I feel for you! Unfortunately I have never experienced this, since we have no kids, just one on the way. If I lived closer, I would come over and watch them so you could have some time to yourself! Sorry I am of absolutely no help!

  7. Alex@LateEnough

    I like lori's idea. My kids both have a few toys that are off-limits to the other.

    My answer: My son doesn't have huge sharing problems so I'm not sure if this will work but E loses the toy completely if he can't share it for a few minutes with his sister.

    Backup plan: I have begun to collect two of almost everything.

  8. Pop

    When D1 had a hard time sharing, I bought a tub of ice cream. I brought it out in front of her and began to eat. She goes, "Can I have some, appa?" "Nope. I'm not good at sharing." She begins to cry. With each delicious, refreshing bite, she's crying more and more. By the time I'm done with the tub, she's a hot mess.

    Did that teach her to share? I don't know. But I got to eat a tub of ice cream, so I take that as a daddy win

  9. CDG

    I was going to suggest what Lori already has (damn that woman and her cutthroat commenting instincts!).

    I have two three year olds competing for toys, AND a cruising, pesky 9 month old.

    Basically, toys that won't/can't be shared are put away (sometimes this a choice I give the kids, sometimes is also a consequence for refusing to share), and anything left out fair game. I also remind them that if they're not willing to share with/include the little guy, they may not play with his toys.

    And baby toys are a constant temptation to three year olds. Why is that?

  10. Jaime

    I agree with Alex…let her have a few special toys but if she refuses to share, take the toy away. It's kind of harsh, but she'll get it eventually. I do something similar with Ainsley. Plus I'm really mean and if she won't share with Freddie then I won't share with her…so she knows how it feels. Luckily, Ainsley has always been a really great sharer. Good luck!

  11. I feel compelled to mention now that I do know the difference between "sight" and "site."

    It is POSSIBLE I am online too much.

  12. SurferWife

    I think I have met the male version of SurferWife. That was a beautiful comment, Pop. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bring tears to my eyes.

  13. Dana

    My kids were never so close in age that sharing bacame an issue. So my suggestions to put one back for a couple of years until she is older and more mature isn't really helpful… so I have nothing.


  14. Pop

    Hooray! Our kids can go to therapy sessions together when they get older

  15. SurferWife

    Maybe we can find a therapist with a windowed room that we can sit in and watch as our kids hurl themselves on the floor in helplessness while we eat our Ben & Jerry's. My only requirement is this window can't be one of those tinted one sided windows. I need these kids to be able to see us eat this ice cream with our ice cream mustaches blowing in the breeze.

  16. Pop

    No window: they need to be able to smell the ice cream.

  17. SurferWife

    My kids do need to work on their olfactory sense, so ok. But as long as the mustache dries properly so they can see it after their session, I'm happy.

  18. Pop

    We can give them the empty tubs – kids love boxes after all.

    What would be even greater parenting is eating ice cream while throwing chicken drumsticks at them

  19. I was going to suggest the same thing Lori did as well….. honestly, I think it's a phase that will last for many years.. BUT it gets better…. now that my youngest is 2, and can actually play with my oldest, and talk.. it's gotten slightly better.. not much… but a little. Good luck :)

  20. SurferWife

    I think I should give you proper warning. While I do have a delicate flower of a young daughter like you, I also have an almost 9 year old boy that plays tackle football, ice hockey and is a baseball pitcher. Little mofo is strong with perfect aim these days, so we may want to re-think what weapon we hand over to him.

  21. gigi

    I can't second surferwife's comments enough. I don't remember that (yes, it's only been 2 years) specifically how I handled it. But it will pass. Keep doing what you're doing. She's at an age where control is important to her and that's how it manifests itself.

    not much consolation, I know :)

  22. this is what i do NOT look forward to. watching s go at it with his buddies is torture enough!

  23. We have that. Our 19 month old seems to want what the other 3 kids might have. So we try to tell them to offer other toys or things for him to play with. It works sometime

  24. @latorres

    We use the timer religiously! If it didn't work at first, I would suggest to keep trying. After my twins realized that that was how we were going to do things, then they willingly submitted (usually). Now when they are arguing over something, they immediately ask to set the timer.

    At first I struggled with it, because I almost didn't think it was fair to make one twin give up something she was initially playing with, even with the timer, but it has really helped them learn the concept of sharing and "trading." They'll trade toys not and shout "Good traaaaaade!" And they also son't like their baby sister to play with their stuff, but they commandeer ALL of her toys.

    Good luck!

  25. @sogeshirts

    I hate Barney and I don't think he is relevant at all to todays kids. But his sharing is caring song got results… or not. Maybe the ice cream is the answer.

  26. Alli_n_Son

    I wish that I had some advice for you, but I don't. The only thing I can say is hang in there, keep doing what you are doing, and know that this phase will pass. And when it happens again with your son, you will be armed with ways to help him overcome it.

  27. I personally like the idea of the bubble bath and wine! But other than that…I've got nothin'! I have 4 kids…but don't have this one figured out.

  28. MelissaDrMom

    Oh boy can I comisserate! And so the sibling rivalry begins. For Big Brother, I had him put a few things out of reach of Little Sister,things that only he could play with. Everything else does need to be shared and vise versa. Not to say, I don't hear "that's mine!" or "I was playing with that!" on a daily basis.

    It will get better and then worse and then better again but there will also be the moments when they are the best of friends.

    A little bubble bath and wine can't hurt either :)

  29. I think that it's a right of passage for siblings. My son is an only child thus far and he is very territorial when it comes to his things. My best friend brought her 1 year old over and my son reacted in the same way "No touch" "Mine!"….EEKS. Wish I could give you some advice about it but I have no idea :(

  30. Klz

    Comment one makes me laugh. Bonk!

    When in doubt I usually go with what lori says. She is wise.

  31. Efloraross

    I'd love to offer advice, but I'm afraid I have discovered I am simply not cut out for this stage of childhood. I just wrote a post about it myself. When my daughter acts like that, it makes me want to cry. She can be so sweet, and then so incredibly mean. It makes me distraught. I know it is normal, and everyone else acts like it's no big deal, but I HATE it.

  32. We are definitely in this stage, too, so I am eagerly reading your comments. I am not sure whether I want to send my kids to Lori or to Pop & Surfer Wife for the next couple of years :) I try various things, because different things work different days. Sometimes I can talk her into finding an alternate toy for him. Sometimes he wants it, sometimes not. Sometimes I need to take the toy (after giving a warning). Sometimes I can actually talk her into sharing. I wish I knew the answer, because it is a daily battle. Our newest coveted toy is the doctor's kit. A billion different instruments, none of which can be touched by her brother.

  33. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    Do what I do. Shrug and say, "Oh well." Lord of the flies, baby. LORD OF THE FLIES!

    But yes, tell her to put her "special" toys away. Also, tell her to watch how long he will play with something. Which is usually abou 3.1 seconds before he moves on. When she sees the less fuss he makes, the sooner he will lose interest, she might get it a little more.

    That's what we're doing here. Altho X knows EXACTLY what to grab to get the biggest reaction out of his sibs. And he has a stronger grip than M.

  34. andygirl


    yeah, I'm not a mom. good luck, lady!

  35. Sherri

    First off, Lori is quite wise. And I love how she used the word "sellage", which now makes me feel the need to go to

    Second, I would come there in a heartbeat and watch those adorable little rug rats! But I think you're looking for someone to actually tell them NO or something like that and when I see those faces? I can't.

    My son was 4 when my daughter was born, and very particular about his "stuff"….Legos (that she could swallow), books (that she would eat), and other stuff. So we decided that what he kept in his room could be non-sister stuff and the rest of the house was for sharing. Pretty much like what Wise Lori said, but I know my kids are further apart than yours. We did the same thing when friends came over…anything they really, REALLY didn't want to share had to be put away in my room before friends arrived.

    It's so hard, though! And he's still so little and wants to eat everything probably. Good luck!

  36. kris

    We have had so many rules over the years.

    Lori is correct and wise. We have always allowed the girls to have a few important items that are special and not to be touched without permission. These items must be treated as though they are extra important, and must not be left out for the sibling to find.

    New things? Get a free week of special treatment. NO touching without permission.

    But everything else? If it's out and about and available? Yes, it still belongs to you, but part of the joy of a possession is in the sharing with those you love. Really.


    When your kids are both old enough to play games? We found it VERY helpful to buy games that required 4 players. So that the whole family was required for the item to be fun.

    But in the end?

    We still have to talk about sharing on a weekly basis.

    And the girls are now 9 and 11.


  37. Ok, I'm late to the party…but I'm used to that.

    My son & stepdaughter are only 10 months apart. So you can imagine the sharing nightmare we had. We basically did what Lori suggested.

    Then about a year & a half ago, we moved into a house that allowed them to each have a bedroom. I separated their toys into the appropriate bedrooms. No one is allowed into the other's bedroom without permission from said kid. All toys must return to the room of origin before bedtime. Permission must be asked before playing with someone else's toy. If they say no, then that must be respected….altho, we do inform them if they are being giant buttholes with the no-saying.

    There are a number of toys that are "shared" toys that I have in an organizer in the hall between their bedrooms. Those are fair game…and rarely played with. LoL We rarely have sharing issues now & they are both (about) 5.

    I really think it is important that each child have a sense of privacy and ownership with at least some of their special toys. We've also developed consequences if one child breaks the other's toys. Trying to work in the "respect for other people's things" bit, too.

    Good luck. It really should get better with age. :)

  38. Oh, and if there was an item causing conflict and sharing was not happening? We took it away. No mercy. LoL

  39. katie

    This is funny…not because of what you are going through, but because my mom was just reminiscing about my younger brother and me. I had made that comment that it was funny that Chris and I were never allowed next to each other in church, in a restaurant, or at the dinner table.

    And her comment was, "you two always had a…thing. Sharing was an…issue. Kate, you wanted to control *everything*, and your brother did NOT want to be controlled."

    And we both laughed. because it was SO true.

    In high school? We became extremely close. I am his go to for EVERYTHING. My mom always said as kids he hated how bossy and mothery I was, but as he got older, he really, REALLY relied on that.

    He is 30, has a child and is getting married. He just called me yesterday in a panic to see if I could come over Sunday and help with the wedding planning.

    Katie and Matthew? Will be great.

Add a comment

(required, won’t be displayed)

About this post