Everyday Parenting: Snatching and Sharing
Everyday Parenting / Parenting

Everyday Parenting: Snatching and Sharing

This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!


Everyday Parenting: Snatching and Sharing

As you might have figured out by now I am of the belief that children are much wiser and more capable than we give them credit for. While the majority of people think that it is our job to very actively teach children how to behave, I believe that is unnecessary. I believe that children are inherently good and want to do the right thing. Instead of teaching and controlling behaviour, I think my job is to support them while they themselves figure out how the world works, how to deal with their emotions, and how to treat others. For example, as a rule I don’t enforce sharing. I’m not even sure what the point of ‘forced sharing’ is, what a ridiculous paradox! I would like my kids to treat others with kindness and fairness and to learn to share, but I want it to be genuine and intrinsically motivated or I don’t really see the point. Most people don’t believe this will work but time and time again I see it happening, and so, a little example from today…

Miss 6 and Miss 4 were playing dress-ups, one was a bat and one was a lion. All was going smoothly until the bat sat down for lunch, took off her gloves, and placed them beside her. The lion, seeing the coveted gloves left unguarded, seized the opportunity and pounced…

Miss 6: GIVE THEM BACK!!!! MUM!! She took my gloves.

Me: She took your gloves? I would ask for them back.

Miss 6: Can you please give the gloves back? I had them first.

The lion carried on with her business, ignoring the question.

Miss 6: You snatched my gloves! Give them back please!

The lion once again made no acknowledgement she had even heard.

Miss 6: She won’t answer me. I had them first!! She snatched them off me!

Me: You had the gloves and now she has them.

Miss 6: Yes. She SNATCHED them!!!!

Me: She took them and you weren’t finished with them?

Miss 6: Yeeeessssssssss. I only put them down to eat. She has to give them back.

Me: It sounds frustrating. You really want them back.

The lion is stalking around, still playing, and pretending not to listen.

Miss 6: (crying) She has my gloves.

Me: I can see you’re upset. You weren’t finished with the gloves, and you want her to give them back. Do you want a cuddle?

Miss 6: Yes.

She cried a bit more, I empathised, the lion continued to prowl, perhaps considering it’s options.

All of a sudden two black gloves fell onto the lounge where we were sitting from over the back.

Miss 6: She gave them back!

Me: She gave them back.

The lion then invited the bat to continue their earlier game and they happily crawled off together.

Everyday Parenting: Snatching and Sharing

Situation resolved. I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything except listen and empathise. I could have instead took charge and insisted Miss 4 give the gloves back right now and I know exactly what would have happened, because I have done it before in frustration. Miss 4 would have refused, and gotten angry. That would have made me need to physically take the gloves and give them back. She would have then cried and stormed off angry at me. The focus would have been totally shifted from her actions and feelings and conscience to what I am making her do. Instead, by just supporting them through their disagreement Miss 4 was able to come to her own conclusions. She gave the gloves back because she realised it was the right thing to do. She developed empathy and felt empowered to make her own choice and effect the outcome. That’s definitely an opportunity I wouldn’t want to take away from her.

Everyday Parenting: Snatching and Sharing


January 12, 2016 at 12:11 am

I totally agree! But I’ve asked this before… What about with other people? That pressure is there to ‘make’ your kid behave. People think you let your kid be a brat and not give them back. How would you handle this in a group if your kid isn’t sharing?

    January 12, 2016 at 8:30 am

    That’s so awkward isn’t it! I try to just do what I would normally do. It’s uncomfortable for me but I remind myself of what’s most important. If they ask or I feel like they might be open to it I might explain what I’m doing.

January 12, 2016 at 4:37 am

Thats a theme here too right now but the one affected of the snatching is only 9 months old. She gets quite angry and tries to bite, ehich I don’t let her of course. Our 4 yo is very unimpressed. I just don’t know what to do. I usually try to calm our little one down, holding her and talking to her what happened… It’s hard to resist the urge to snatch back :/

January 12, 2016 at 6:39 am

You have patience of steel!

January 12, 2016 at 9:17 am

I really appreciate this — it’s so helpful to see examples of things like this being handled so well.

I keep practicing changing the paradigm within which I parent, but there are so many inbuilt beliefs and habits surrounding it all, that it feels like a minefield sometimes. In the heat of the moment, I too often go back into frustrated reaction mode, and I end up not even being able to remember what the alternative might look like.

So thank you for sharing such gentle alternatives.

January 12, 2016 at 9:56 am

May I ask your thoughts on how I could apply this to an almost 4-yo and a 9 month old? Here’s a scenario-

4yo has a comfort blanket which he totes around with him – often leaving it strewn over our sofa, or on the living room floor – the 9mo sometimes grabs it which can distress his older brother. Our 4yo’s immediate reaction is to snatch it back or ask me to get it off him.

Or – our 4yo snatches toys from our 9mo, who is largely unloaded, sometimes he’ll bring him a replacement toy, other times he just places the snatched toy somewhere out of baby’s reach.

I’d like to treat them equally while modelling compassion and empathy.

January 12, 2016 at 6:34 pm

A really great way to demonstrate respectful parenting in action – thank you. It is always helpful to read posts like this.

January 22, 2016 at 2:20 am

This is great. Listen and Emphatize. Thanks for sharing, Sara! I think I’m going to start applying it as early as tomorrow when the kids wake up and start quarrelling during breakfast 🙂

March 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

How do you make it work the other way though when the younger one snatches and does not give back?

May 27, 2016 at 9:45 am

Interesting. It sounds like it worked out great in this case. But what would you have done if the sister never returned it? Shrug and empathize some more?
In our case, my 3 y.o. just ignores and walks away with whatever he’s taken from his brother and doesn’t return, nor is he interested in talking about it. The 5 y.o. then becomes so angry, he runs to grab it back or start punching. Then I have to hold him back and tell him not to hit. I imagine it feels pretty terrible.
What message do I give by just empathizing and not trying to help in a situation where one isn’t really old enough to understand yet? That the 3 y.o. may act on his impulses, and all we can do is shrug and feel bad?
If I reported a car theft to police and all they did was cluck about how frustrated I must be (when I know they could’ve helped), I’d be pretty upset!
If my son feels he won’t be helped when his brother enters the room looking to take what he has, he covers the toy with his whole body and panics. Should he be the one to endure this until his brother “gets it” one day?
I’d rather take the toy back from my 3 y.o., explain that he can’t take something someone else has like that, and empathize with HIM that it’s tough to have to wait sometimes. When I do that, my older son calms down and feels more like he is the one who can be generous.

    Kristin Brutsman
    January 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Sara, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on this. You have such great patience and understanding for situations like this.

      January 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      Oh I missed this! I think when one child is much younger and not as verbal and is the one constantly snatching like in that situation I would do what you described! Just stay close for a while so you can sort this issue out. When he goes to snatch stop him and say ‘I can’t let you take that, x is using it right now’ and empathise ‘It’s hard to wait, I can wait with you, x could you let us know when you’re finished with it?’ Or if it’s already been snatched try to talk about it and then ask him to give it back. If it can’t be resolved just say something like ‘This is really hard for you, you don’t want to give it back, I’m going to help you, I need to keep x’s things safe” or something along those lines, and then give it back 🙂

Rachel kilbride
June 17, 2016 at 8:29 am

I’m learning to step back and watch my (just)3 year old and 9 month old develop their own relationship. My LG is very rough and tumble with the little man but what I consider to be too rough, often the baby will find hilarious. He can now push her away and squeel or cry, which instantly makes her step away. If she does really hurt him, like today she stumbled over him and his face hit the floor, I scoop him up and walk away, giving him the attention. I might vocalise ‘oh dear we’re you knocked over and got hurt? That wasn’t very nice was it?’ accompanied by hugs and kisses. She usually comes over to say sorry. Hopefully in the future they’ll be able to learn each others limits…here’s hoping!!!

October 23, 2017 at 12:08 am

Hi there! I am really thankful to have stumbled upon your parenting approach. Listen and empathize is brilliant. One question I have – why do you ask Miss 6 if she wants a cuddle?

June 29, 2018 at 6:19 pm

I am a mother of twin girls 27months, and we are facing the same situation, one’s a lion-she snatches, provokes and sometimes bite (? Out of competition or even boredom)we have fried taking her aside and explaining, sometimes she just behave like how u described – doesn’t really care and her sister tends to get more and more distressed. We get the empathising part and are working hard on it. But how do we let our lion one know that snatching is wrong?

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