Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Two siblings, ages three and five are bickering over the toys. The parent admonishes the younger child, “You are almost four, now share.” The older child next hits the younger child and the parent shouts, “Don’t hit… you have to love your little sister/brother.” The stage is set for the parent to develop a rivalry between the children with the toys viewed as a valuable and limited resource. What is sought though, is sibling harmony, not rivalry.

Children go through developmental stages where at one stage they are almost incapable of sharing, to the next stage, when they finally develop an ability to share. In developmental terms these stages are described as parallel play and cooperative play.

Parallel play is most common in two to three year olds. The main feature of parallel play is that the child tends to play alone, even though the child may be with other…

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