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Why didn’t anyone tell me that preschoolers believe everything is theirs until someone tells them differently?

Many four year olds are light fingered and take items that are not theirs from time to time. Your child is still learning not to take things that belong to others even though they may really want it. Often times a child takes something that is not his or hers as a way of connecting to a place or person they like. If a child really likes someone, he may take important things that belong to them.

While this is a typical developmental phase, it is certainly not one that should be ignored. Use this behavior as an opportunity for teaching your child to respect others possessions. 
  • Stay calm and explain the rules "we don’t take other people things". 
  • Explain the concept of sharing and asking before you touch another person’s possessions. "If you want to play with a toy ask first and then return the item when you're done. Just like you would like your toy returned to you."
  • Discuss the difference between "wanting something" and "taking something without asking". Then calmly help them return the item that was taken.
  • Loosing your temper or making the child feel guilty will often cause them to be sneakier with their behavior.  They are also more likely to only remember how angry you were and forget the lesson you are trying to teach.

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