Montessori Monday: MINE!

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!

Dear Lindsey,

Do you have any advice on getting your 2.5 year old to stop saying "mine" whenever a friend even starts walking in his direction while he's holding a toy? He currently goes to daycare 3 days a week, so my husband and I aren't sure if this has aided in his need to guard the toy he is currently playing with. But, it has been hard to do things with his friends when he spends most of the time worrying about his toy getting taken from him rather than just playing with it. We also have a 5 month old and I had entertained the idea that he suddenly feels a need for more attention from us--whether good or bad. Could this be part of it too? Thanks! 

The Mine Police

Dear The Mine Police,

This could be many things. It might have to do with your new baby, as you mentioned, and it could also be a mechanism developed at the rough and tumble world of daycare. Sharing is hard for small children. In fact, it is completely unnatural. You can read all of my deep thoughts on sharing right here.

But, in this instance, the first thing that came to mind for me was language and idea recognition. Children at your son's age are learning language at a staggering rate. And along with learning language comes comprehending and recognizing the ideas that the language represents. In Montessori (and probably in other places, too) this is called an abstraction. So you have the word and then you have all that the word is and grasping the sense of the word's being is the abstraction. Sometimes when children are adamant and repeat something over and over again, maybe even at varying volume levels, all they are looking for is some validation. You could try saying to your son the next time he is on a "MINE!" kick, "Yes, that is your toy. It's yours, isn't it?" and see if that satisfies him. I'm thinking it probably won't satisfy him entirely, but it will probably give him a moment's pause and a very good feeling of having gotten the whole concept right.

To quell his fears of his toys being taken, it might work well to talk to him before people come over. Children can digest much more than we give them credit for, but don't push it - keep it short and sweet anyway! Just say in a matter of fact way, "Some friends are coming over in a little bit. Billy will be interested in your toys and he will touch them and play with them, but he won't take any of your toys home with him. I promise all of your toys are going to stay right here at home. We're going to have a fun time with our visitors!"

Do not use a tone of voice that suggests you're apologizing for some terrible thing you're doing to him. If you do, the message will be that sharing is really awful and a punishment to be endured and it will not go well! Do not tack the word, "Okay?" onto the end of the explanation! It's not a question. You're not asking. You're telling. You're telling him you're having visitors and that his toys will be fine and it will be fun. Which is true! Do not get down on his level and hold his hand while saying this. Even two year olds know bad news is coming when someone does that.

Try not to let the "MINE!" phase bother you. It's normal and healthy and nothing to be concerned about, even if it is annoying or embarrassing at times. Good luck!

Lovely readers, do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with the "MINE!" phase? Please share them in the comments below! xo


  1. We have always allowed our daughters to put away a toy that is sacred to them and too difficult to share prior to a play date. For example, a favorite stuffed animal or baby doll. I think it helps them have some sense of control and then they don't seem to have as much of a problem sharing their other toys.

  2. So happy to see the return of Montessori Mondays! I was educated in the Montessori system until moving away in the sixth grade. I don't think I or my parents were actively aware of the differences in Montessori education, and until your posts I hadn't given the experience much reflection at all. Now, though, I find myself reading up on the system and approach while devouring your posts on the subject. Keep them coming, Lindsey! Such a pleasure to read.

  3. Yay! I'm so delighted to see Montessori Mondays back as it's just such sensible advice. This absolutely makes sense to me- I tell my 18 month old what is happening and why all the time, love asking her whose Daddy is that, or whose bunny is that and she says "mine!" She is so proud to tell you about her possessions. I'm definitely going to explain more about what happens when people come to play as she is happy to share but sometimes a little worried about people coming in. We always discuss who is coming to visit and when, so this just seems like the natural next step! Thank you so much :)

  4. I love this! Going to keep it in mind for my 11 month old. I already catch myself asking her questions when I should be telling her and I'm trying to get in the habit of telling. Even though she can't talk yet I know she's understanding at least some of what I am saying.

    I also love Montessori Monday's! I am not all that familiar with Montessori but I love everything I read and I'm already looking into Montessori preschools around. I don't think a full Montessori school will be an option, but I might do a couple years of preschool programs.

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