Disobedient 3/Y Snatches Away Other Children’s Toys

Updated on January 12, 2011
M.T. asks from Miami, FL
7 answers

My baby is nearly 3/y old. He seems very naughty and disobedient. When he sees a toy which he likes, he will ask for it even though it belongs to another child, and sometimes he will snatch the toy away. I have explained to him that his behavior is wrong and unacceptable, but it’s no use. What should I do?

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answers from Miami on

Like the other posters said, it's not so much that he's purposefully being naughty, he's just being 3. Here are some strategies I've used with my kids:

1. Focus on "taking turns" rather than sharing. I think sharing is a tough concept to understand whereas taking turns is more concrete. You can practice at home. If he snatches something away from you, take it back and have him ask properly. Make sure you are modeling the proper way to ask for something from somebody.

2. Discuss acceptable behavior before you go. If you are going on a playdate, on the way over remind him how we need to ask for a turn and wait for the toy to be given. Ask him questions about how to behave and wait for him to answer. Ex: Son, how do we ask for a turn? Or, "Is it polite to grab someone's toy from them?" "What happens if someone doesn't want to share?"

3. I don't think 3 is too young for consequences. If you're some place that he keeps taking toys and not listening, it's ok to leave and try again another day. You can be matter of fact about it. When you're discussing the appropriate way to share toys on the way to where ever you're going, make sure he knows that if he doesn't listen and keeps taking toys without asking, you'll have to go home. So one of your questions to him could be, "What happens when we keep taking toys from our friends?" If he continues to take toys even after being reminded that you'll have to leave if he doesn't stop, then be sure to follow through. Tell him you can see he is having a hard time sharing today and since it is making him and his friends sad, it's time to take a break and try another day. You can empathize and follow through without getting mean.

I know it will suck for you especially if you're socializing with other moms and you have to go home early, but a couple times of leaving early will make more of an impact than spending all your visits policing him and getting frustrated.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You have apparently not been introduced to The Toddler's Creed, written by T. Berry Brazelton:

* If I want it, it's mine.
* If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine.
* If I can take it away from you, it's mine.
* If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
* If it's mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
* If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
* If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

Your son is not quite old enough to understand ownership or sharing yet. He just knows what attracts him. Keep modeling sharing. He'll probably get there at just the right time.

I agree with Marda – the way behavior is framed and labeled has a huge impact on the way children see themselves and thus on future behavior. Do your best to avoid labeling – even positive labels and excessive praise can have a surprisingly negative impact on a child's motivation. Here's a fascinating article on the topic: How NOT to Talk to Kids, by Po Bronson: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

His behavior is normal, not wrong or unacceptable. How you feel about his behavior seriously affects how he learns to behave. He doesn't yet know how to share. He has no concept of ownership. He's only 3! HIs brain is still in the very early stages of development. It will be some time before he understands ownership. Years, in fact. He can learn to share but you have to teach him.

Use words to tell him that the toy does belong to "joey" and that if he doesn't want to share he doesn't have to. Unless of course "joey's" mom wants him to learn to share and is there to coach her son. It's the same rule for you son. He doesn't have to share. Once he is comfortable with the idea that a toy is his and he has a choice he'll be more apt to share. Give him that choice.

You become his coach. Do not judge him. Respect his wishes. It's OK to want the toy. What isn't OK is to snatch it. Try to prevent the snatching by moving your son or the toy out of his view or by giving him a different toy. If he does snatch it, take it away, while sympathizing with him. He feels frustrated or sad that he can't have what he wants. Those feelings are normal and acceptable.

What he does with the feelings is an important lesson too. Crying is OK. Hitting is not. Hold his hands if he tries to snatch the toy back or hits. Tell him that's not OK. And what's most important in this situation is to redirect his attention to something he can have. And, as difficult as it seems, to do this in a calm and non-judgmental manner. This is the way it is. He is not naughty. He's learning to be obedient. Obedience doesn't come naturally.

Praise teaches much more effectively than put downs. I see telling a child that they're naughty as a put down. Instead tell and show him how to be obedient. Reward his obedience with praise. He will act as you expect him to act. You get what you expect is my understanding of raising children. Tell them they're naughty enough and they do become mainly naughty. Tell them they're your obedient child and they'll live up to that too.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

please do not take offense at my words, BUT I truly believe you need to adjust your perception of what a 3y.o can & will do! He is acting as most other 3y.o.s do in similar situations. Naughty & disobedient are not descriptors I would choose to use when talking about a 3y.o.!

As parents, we have to teach children the behavior we wish them to possess. We have to model the appropriate actions before they can understand what we want. Our words will not teach them....as easily as our actions will.

That said, by being proactive with your son.....by preventing these types of interactions before they happen - will provide you with the opportunity to teach him the proper way to behave. In other words, you need to be right there, ready to step in & model a better way to act! If you see him escalating in temperament over a toy, then step into the action - hold your hand up like a "stop sign" - & both verbalize & physically display how he should proceed. Use as few words as possible or he will zone out on you!

By taking this time to quietly & simply model a more polite behavior, he will learn & will begin to understand what you want! Peace!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's a very normal learning stage that every child goes through.
It's one of the reasons terrible 2's and 3's are hard to deal with.
Kids parallel play at this stage (next to each other and not cooperatively with each other).
When my son was little I'd sit down to play next to him. We began sharing lessons by my sharing some toys with him. Eventually I'd ask for an exchange (I'll give you the ball if you give me the car). Sharing with Mom is a first step.
As far as ownership goes - does he have a special stuffed toy that's all his that's with him for bedtime all the time or goes everywhere with him?
If he snatches some other childs toy, give it back to the owner and ask your son if he'd like it if his special toy was taken away (don't actually take it, that would be cruel). It takes awhile, but eventually they learn how to play nice with each other.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Just wait. That's all. Children don't understand the reasoning behind sharing until much older. It's hard for them to empathize, which is what is required in order to understand sharing. Just keep working with him on it. It's not a big deal. This is an issue that every child deals with.
He's not a bad kid. Trust me. :) He's just being 3.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

See YokaReeder.com- she has been a great help to us.

When he has his own toys does anyone ever take them from him?

Awful to be calling your son naughty disobedient wrong and unacceptable at age 3.Maybe you can start with just no, rather than these awful things.

best, k

1 mom found this helpful
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