The other morning I caught myself grabbing my husband’s pillow and whining, “Mine!” Clearly, my son’s possessive toddler behavior is affecting me. I have to admit, the “mine” routine is somewhat cute. Especially, when my son first started to claim everything in our apartment. I even played along. “That’s my spoon! That’s my shelving unit!” I shouted back as we hugged, laughed and wrestled around for a good 15 minutes.

But now, I can’t take him anywhere without him taking another kid’s toy or bike and yelling, “That’s Mine!” So while this stage is still kinda cute, it’s also getting a little challenging. It feels like some power struggle is happening, and of course I wonder if I’m to blame. A mother’s guilt has no bound. 

After a little digging, I discovered that as toddlers start claiming their independence and have a stronger sense of self, they see everything as parts of themselves — which they do not want to give up. They then become overprotective over things, and a bit of an emotional mess, might I add. This all sounds like how I get when my husband steals the covers in the middle of the night too though.

I also learned that this phase is also about control. Toddlers don’t feel like they have much power in their lives because they are constantly being told what to do, so they become possessive over items they can control. 

As toddlers become older, around 3 or 4, they begin to realize that only certain things are theirs. They also have more experience playing with others, so sharing gets easier. 

Not being able to share seems like the quintessential toddler issue. Though I do know many adults who never quite outgrew this stage of life, and I won’t name names. Hopefully, your toddler will graduate past this stage and here are some expert tips on how to cope in the meantime:

Practice Sharing

Practice sharing with you child. Ask to use their toys, and then explain that they can ask for them back.

Don’t Always Push It

If a friend comes over, ask your child to hide certain toys she or he might not want to share. Knowing they don’t always have to share, might loosen their grips on their things.

Keep Duplicates

Have duplicates of really important toys that kids love so they feel less possessive. For example, two scooters are must-haves!

Take Turns

Ask your children to take turns playing with their toys. You might even want to use a timer, so they hear the beep at the end of their turn.

Even though I can get possessive of my bedding at night, at least I know that my kid’s hoarding behavior has nothing to do with me. The Mine stage is a perfectly normal part of a toddler’s development. It just requires patience and understanding — and a few extra set of toys around the house. And while I’m out shopping, I’ll also buy a few extra pillows!