Can one keep ones child from becoming selfish and greedy?

My girl (17 months) is almost always very kind and willing to share things with friends and family. When her little boyfriend (same age) comes over to play it is rare (but not totally unheard of) that she’ll grab toys away from him or pout because he has her toy.

But this past weekend, when we visited the inlaws, I abruptly removed her from the room with her cousin because the cousin was being so selfish and greedy and I didn’t want our girl to learn such bad behavior. The cousin (about 2 yrs) grabbed at least a half dozen toys, snatching several from the hands of our girl, clutching them to her chest, so she could have all the toys and our girl could have none. First I grabbed a few toys back from the cousin, told her “no, you can share,” and gave some to our girl. But when she kept grabbing and hoarding I finally gave up, removed our girl (who wasn’t upset by the greedy behavior so much as puzzled) and let her play peacefully alone in another room.

I’ve seen similar behavior on the playground, when 4 or 5 year-old boys will sit sidewise in the tube slides, intentionally blocking the slides to prevent other kids from going down. They think they are “big” kids, have discovered that they can control the world, preventing other kids from getting what they want, and they get a kick out of that.

Is such selfish, greedy behavior in young children inevitable? Is it learned from observing selfish behavior in other kids or is it a natural part of growing up in all children (ie, nature v nurture)? I believe it must be learned behavior and I am determined our girl will act better, but I realize she’s still young and only time will tell.

this is just my opinion: never let any selfish behavior slide. you have to be consistent. always correct it, gently most of the time, hard when you have to. taiwanese parents are totally not consistent. they let it slide and it grows like a bad weed.
nip it while it’s still a bud.

The best way I know to teach sharing MT is to share. Share your cookies and drink with your daughter, paper and pens and things, and sooner or later she will pick it up that it’sok to share. Kids start off as solitary players for the most part, then they start playing with each other…anywhere from 2-4 years I think.

Also, removing her from negative infuences…gosh…that’s only going to get harder. :slight_smile:

Best of luck to you.

I agree with jdsmith: nip it in the bud, and encourage sharing by sharing your things with your child.

However, I think the child’s age needs to be taken into consideration. 17 months, 2 years old, that kind of behaviour is understandable and I wouldn’t be getting too upset about it (although I’d still try to encourage sharing). At that age they are only just beginning to learn about “me, as seperate from the rest of the world” and must be allowed to draw boundaries sometimes.

4 and 5 year-olds, though. That’s a completely different story. They KNOW they’re doing something wrong at that age, and thus can and should be talked to about their actions.

I agree with the above posters.
I aslo found and have observed that a lot of parents force their kids to share and that isn’t good imo.
A child must have the right not to share something that belongs to him as much as we, adults, sometimes do not want to share some of our belongings.

[quote=“igorveni”]I agree with the above posters.
I aslo found and have observed that a lot of parents force their kids to share and that isn’t good imo.
A child must have the right not to share something that belongs to him as much as we, adults, sometimes do not want to share some of our belongings.[/quote]

I agree. Sharing should not be a punishment, but should be positively re-enforced as much as possible, when the child is young.

But, yes, absolutely, the older child should not feel the need to share everything, otherwise he may believe that nothing is truly his or that he is not really responsible for anything. I tell my son now, and I doubt how much he really gets it at this point, “Don’t share any toy you don’t want to get broken.”

I don’t share my cell phone with my child. I guess you don’t either. For a 2yo kid, all of her toys are her precious little babies and she doesn’t want some other kid to drool on them. There’s nothing you can do about it.

When my child was born, my sister’s kid was about 18 months old. My sister gave their old rattles to us, but her kid took them all back. 6 months later, she had already learned to share a little bit. She would give one of her toys to my son, but freaked out when my son put it in his mouth - then she took it back again.

And jdsmith is right - you can’t keep your child away from “bad” children. But your child learns things from you and can estimate the behaviour of other kids - she sees what’s wrong and what’s right. Of course, sooner or later she will start saying things like: “But Susan doesn’t do this or that, why do I have to do that?” And you can always say: “But you would like Susan more if she did, right?”

I wouldn’t be removing my child from that situation. She wouldn’t learn anything about sharing by doing that. It might be hurting your sensibilities, but I doubt your child is trully learning selfish behavior. I guarantee she’s got that in spades already. Well at least lets hope so.

Being the center of the universe is what it is all about for young children and learning that your really standing on the edge of it is called maturing.

Mother Theresa,

The sharing/not sharing behavior is all normal for the stages each child you describe is at. There are words to describe the kinds of play (parallel play, cooperative play…) at each developmental stage. However, how parents and caregivers handle the behavior can influence a child’s social skills later on.

Actively demonstrating your own willingness to share is really helpful in developing your own child’s sharing behavior. Also, letting your child know that she doesn’t have to share everything is important. Over that age of 2-3 years, children realize they have possessions, so it is really nice if you can do things like give them a box of their own to put treasures in, give them a cubby hole that is theirs to hide in, label their special cups, bowls, crayons, etc. Having ownership and control over certain important things is a first step toward sharing. if you feel secure that your treasures are protected, you are more likely to share other things later on. Like another poster said, you probably have certain things you don’t share with your child, and things that you are happy to share if they ask. Food is always a great thing to use when setting an example, like sharing with people at the park or taking treats to a relative’s house when you visit. Punishing children for not sharing or forcing them to share can have negative results - I got in trouble last time, I’m not sure why, and someone took my toys off me - I better keep them even closer to me!"

We have a 3-year old around sometimes, she has just gone through the “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine” stage, and is now trying hard to share with my 11-month old. She spends a long time trying to find substitutes to give my son when she wants the toy he has, my son often has this look of shock on his face when she does an exchange, it’s pretty cute. At 2+, she was really angry to see my son play with her baby toys and wear her old bibs, she even took them and wore them herself, now she is like “Oh, I’m too big for that, that’s for our family baby.”

The National Association for the Education of Young Children have some good, short articles on their website:

Modeling is one of the most powerful way to influence your children. You sound like you have a parent’s instinct to protect your child from picking up bad habits, and I think if you model consistent sharing behaviors, it’s unlikely she will be “corrupted.”