Your Child's Brain in Week 100
Your toddler is making great strides toward identifying herself as separate from you. By now, she can recognize herself in the mirror, and is likely starting to use pronouns: She might even exhibit signs that she's able to see from your perspective. Another big indicator of these self-definition skills? Possessiveness! It may seem that the whole world belongs to your toddler, as she decrees, "My blankie!" "My book!" "My mommy!"
While such seemingly self-centered behavior causes most parents to fear that they're raising a selfish, grabby, hoarding child, this possessiveness actually serves your child well in social situations with peers. Here's what we know.
What the Research Shows
In the same study that tested toddlers' abilities to recognize themselves in the mirror and use pronouns correctly, researchers created two groups: Children with a high level of self-definition skills (those who could identify themselves in the mirror and use pronouns), and children with low-level self-definition skills (kids who hadn't yet achieved these mirror and pronoun milestones).
Within each group, they observed pairs of children at play and found interesting patterns: The highly self-aware toddlers were quick to claim toys as "mine," but then proceeded to exhibit positive social skills. They sat near one another, played with the same toy together, smiled, and imitated and spoke to one another. Conversely, researchers found that the toddlers who exhibited fewer self-definition skills didn't interact with their playmates in such complex ways.
This research suggests that toddler possessiveness—while seemingly negative and cringe-worthy for parents—is actually a way of establishing an understanding: "These are mine and those are yours." Once the ground rules are set, they get on with playing together, subsequently displaying more sophisticated social skills as they do!