Lately, in my relations with other parents, I have run into quite a few who believe that their child sharing with my child is extremely important. So important at times, that they have actually walked up and physically removed their child from a rocking horse because my child asked for it or took a toy out of their hand to give it to my son or another child in the room. In society, that is a pretty common request of parents to even the youngest of babies, so I am not surprised I am seeing it again and again. It has inspired me to write on the topic once again though.
When we become parents, our hopes and dreams for our children are strong, even severe. And as they grow and start to assert themselves, we want so badly for them to be kind, caring, and compassionate people. So we start making requests of them that many adults have trouble doing with little understanding of what they are developmentally able to handle or even any knowledge of the best ways to help them become those compassionate people in the long run. We cannot really blame parents, we are only doing the best we can with the knowledge we have. It is even hard to say that we should have read more parenting books to gain that knowledge as the shear volumes of these books available, with so many different view points, can deter anybody.
How can a parent possibly know where to begin?
By reading my blog of course.... ;)
So for now I am gonna write about sharing and taking turns since it is such a focus of those around us (and because I cannot find the articles I wrote for the preschool so many years ago :( ).
Just imagine this scenario for a moment:
You have just gotten a new car and are in love with it. You want it to stay clean and undamaged and are enjoying your time in it so much when another person comes up to you who is bigger and stronger and says, "It is now time to give Susie your car. You have had your turn, and Susie wants it now."
Think about how that would feel to you as we explore the reasons to NOT ask your child to share:
1. If you have taken even a basic class on child development, you know that young children (as defined as birth to age 8) are egocentric. To get them to think of others before themselves is a very difficult, some would even say developmentally impossible thing for them to do. Does this mean we don't talk about our effects on other people, or model to our children the ways others should be treated, absolutely not. But it does mean, that when you force something like giving up a toy that they had first, you are actually forcing them to do something that so often leads to them thinking even more about themselves. How can they get it back? How angry they are that mom took it away. Tantrums often follow.
2. They are losing an opportunity to work on problem-solving with another child when we step in and force the issue. For two children to come up with their own plan on how they can both have the bike is so much more effective than the adults in the room coming up with what the adult thinks is the fair plan. Children have incredible ideas, they think outside the box and often they come up with ideas that they both agree too that an adult would never have thought of.
Which leads to the next point,
3. It can seriously disrupt relationships. When you play the police officer of fairness in the room, it often leads you to not consider the feelings involved and to simply make judgments on a situation. Feelings are very powerful, they need to be acknowledged, and no one likes to be judged. So it can really drive a wedge between you and your child when you take the one item your child has coveted all day and determine 10 minutes is long enough for him to have had it.
In addition, how do you think your child is going to feel towards the child that now has been given this coveted item? If your answer is warm and fuzzy and thinking about how it was rightfully their turn, you are seriously mistaken. S it can also really interrupt any chance of a budding friendship between children and lead to more bickering and racing to get toys in the long run.
4. Every item that a young child has is so important to them as the new car example in the beginning. It is "theirs" regardless of the adults determination of ownership. How unfair does that seem then to take it away from them?
5. We all know that children learn through play, so consider that every time your child has an item, even as simple as a leaf in their hand, they are on the verge of a great discovery. Maybe they are exploring gravity by dropping a ball over and over, or figuring out balance on the bike, or finally understanding that blue and yellow make green when you mix those paints at the easel. When we force children to share, we are deciding that the learning should stop dead in its tracks.
But how then can we help our children be the considerate people we hope for them to become.
1. Don't rush them, growing takes time. Just as crawling needs to come before walking, so does possession before sharing. Children need to fully experience ownership and understand it before they can know how and why to share. Every child that I have seen whose right to have whatever they have had in their hands is respected have been much more likely to share. Knowing that when I have something, it will be respected. Not knowing if you will ever be given the time you need with something and that it could be taken from you at any moment will make you a lot less likely to give it up whenever you again have it in your hand.
2, Model, Model, Model. Share with them, your friends, other children. Don't become a preacher of being a good sharer, but put into practice the values you hold dear. It will come across in the end.
3. Listen to your child's feelings even when you think they are being selfish and unfair. Sometimes all a child wants to hear is that you understand that they really love that firetruck and could play with it all day. Once they know you know that about them, they can become much more likely to share it.
4. Ignore what other parents think about your parenting. So often we interact with our children in ways that we think others believe we should. When we do that, it is almost guaranteed that we will forget about what our own parenting goals are.
5. Trust your children, they will share in time.