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Reality Check: "Hey -- That's My Toy!"

Q  Our daughter doesn't want her younger brother to play with her toys. But is it okay to let him when she's at school?

A It depends. If we're talking about the toy groceries and shopping cart she hasn't touched in a month and a half, then let him faux-shop to his heart's content. But if it's one of her "special" toys (a dollhouse with painstakingly arranged furniture, a beloved stuffed animal), then think of it this way: Would you like it if your husband let your sister rummage through and borrow your jewelry when you were out without asking you?

What's more, if your daughter found out about what you were doing with her playthings when she was at school, it would probably make her even tighter with her toys.

Although toy hogging is unacceptable and selfishness can't be condoned, your daughter has a right to exert some measure of authority over her most precious possessions. This is especially true when siblings share a room, since so much sharing is forced upon them. But whether they each have their own room or not, the off-limits rules can't be arbitrary and ever-changing. Tell her she can select three or four toys that she doesn't have to share with her brother, then enforce her wishes even when she's not around. You know the saying "Integrity is what you do when no one's looking"? Live by it, and your kids will too.