When A Child Gets Upset When Others Touch Their Stuff

 

What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

Many of us would agree that sibling bickering is one of the most frustrating parts of parenting. And we know that one of the ways to resolve some of the arguments is for them to share their things and be considerate of each other’s feelings.

So when one child refuses to let their brother or sister touch their things

…When they get upset because someone got too close to “their” chair or “their” books

…When they freak out when someone asks to join in anything they are doing

We become incredibly frustrated. How could they be so selfish? Why can’t they be more flexible?

And we don’t know how to encourage them to do something different.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Children (and adults!) want to know that they have some say over their lives. And they get tired of constantly hearing “no you can’t do that,” “no you can’t have that,” “I don’t care that you’re in the middle of something; come to the table,” “stop acting like that,” “tell your sister you’re sorry…”

Sometimes they they feel like they have no control. 

…So they don’t want lose control of the thing that matters to them at that moment. 

…And they want to know that their perspective matters too.

…And they want to feel like there are some things that they get to have a say about.

So they get upset when they are focused on something and they believe someone might try to take it away. While it may seem selfish to others, they feel like they’ve been sacrificing a lot themselves

 

 

How It Usually Goes  

When A Child Gets Upset When Others Touch Their Stuff

 

Scenario: Becki is playing with her art set. Her brother Trey is walking toward her. Before he even touches anything, Becki starts yelling at him to get away.

 

Trey: I wasn’t going to do anything, Becki!

Becki: You always touch my stuff! I don’t want you to touch my stuff!

Trey: No I don’t!

Becki: Yes you do!

Mom: Becki, he hadn’t even touched anything.

Becki (starts screaming).

Mom: Becki, stop it! Trey didn’t do anything. And you have to learn to SHARE. We SHARE in this family.

Becki (continues to scream).

Mom: Becki! STOP RIGHT NOW!

Becki: I don’t want him to touch my things!

Mom: He wasn’t touching anything!

Becki: He was going to!

Mom: How do you know that? You have got to learn that things in this house belong to everyone. I don’t keep things from Dad.

Becki: I don’t care. Trey needs to leave me alone.

Mom (feels helpless because Becki refuses to hear any logic or calm down).

 

How It Could Go  

When A Child Gets Upset When Others Touch Their Stuff

 

Scenario: Becki is playing with her art set. Her brother Trey is walking toward her. Before he even touches anything, Becki starts yelling at him to get away.

 

Trey: I wasn’t going to do anything, Becki!

Becki: You always touch my stuff! I don’t want you to touch my stuff!

Trey: No I don’t!

Becki: Yes you do!

Mom: Hey Becki, you REALLY don’t want your brother to touch anything.

 

CALM

As soon as she hears the kids fighting, Becki and Trey’s mom reminds herself that she doesn’t have to SOLVE or FIX anything and can instead focus on respecting both children’s perspectives. Getting herself in the right frame of mind helps her stay calm. 

 

Trey: I wasn’t going to.

Mom: I see that, Trey. I do. I am going to hear what Becki has to say now too.

Becki: I don’t want him touching my stuff!

Mom: I can hear that. Your stuff matters to you.

 

CONNECT

Becki’s mom reiterates Becki’s perspective. Her goal is to help Becki feel respected so that Becki can get out of her Yuck and be more considerate of others.

 

Becki: Yeah! And Trey messes it up!

Trey: Hey! Wait a second…

Mom: Trey. I’m going to listen to you too. You matter too, so I’m going to talk to you in a bit about this as well. Can you let me talk to Becki for a moment now? (Pauses.) Becki, do you feel like people take your stuff a lot?

Becki: Yes.

Mom: How come?

Becki: I never get to play by myself. Everyone tells me to share and to give everyone else my stuff.

Mom: That sounds frustrating.

Becki: Yes!

Mom: So you want to decide when you’re going to share your stuff?

Becki: Yes!

Mom: Do you think Trey should get to decide when he shares his stuff too? Like you do? 

 

CORRECT STEP 1

Becki’s mom realizes that Becki is struggling to have empathy in the moment. She tries to demonstrate what empathy looks like, offering Becki a tool to be successful.

 

Becki: No.

Mom: So right now it feels like you want to be the only one who gets to decide all of this?

Becki: Yes!

Mom: I get that, Becki. (Pauses.) And remember our house rule? We don’t have to share all of our things, but we do have to be respectful of others’ feelings. I’m afraid I don’t hear much respect toward Trey right now.

 

CORRECT STEP 2

Becki’s mom recognizes that if Becki still can’t see her brother’s perspective, she was still in Yuck. So she re-states her boundary… and then lets Becki release her Yuck — both about this situation and anything else that she has been holding inside. She knows that on the other side of Yuck lives more positive, thoughtful behavior.

 

Becki (starts to cry. Her mom lets her cry. When she’s done after a few moments, she gives her an affectionate squeeze.)

Mom: Becki, you don’t have to share everything, but you do have to be kind to your brother. Can you think of a way to do that?

Becki: I guess I’ll let him play with my art set when I’m done.

Mom: I’m glad to hear you thinking of his feelings. I’ll ask him to be thoughtful of you too. 

 

 

How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work

 

The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If one sibling doesn’t want others to touch their stuff, remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Becki and Trey’s mom will NOT be able to stay calm if

a.) her biological or emotional needs are low (if she is physically tired and/or tired of the kids’ fighting)

b.) her expectations are not realistic — if she thinks that Becki has all of the tools she needs to “act mature” when she is struggling.

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Becki and Trey’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Becki and Trey’s mom will only be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, Becki’s emotional needs are low and she can’t act positively when she is in Yuck)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively.  

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Becki and Trey’s mom will only be able to use tools to effectively correct if:

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she means what she says; for example, that when she says that family values must be obeyed, she will wait with Becki until she starts acting respectful again

b.) She has made enough deposits into the relationship that trying to encouraging her to treat her brother better will not put Becki deeper into Yuck.

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into her emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct her daughter’s behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.