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Question : My concern is sharing. My children are reluctant to share. I really want help in this matter.
Our Answer : Children have difficulty sharing, especially young children. This is a normal part of the development process. Knowing and accepting this is the first step in helping your child grow up to be a generous person. Here’s an overview of what’s going on inside that possessive little mind.
1. Selfishness comes before sharing
The power to possess is a natural part of the child’s growing awareness. During the second and third years, as the child goes from oneness to separateness, this little person works to establish an identity separate from mother. “I do it myself!” and “mine!” these are the major thoughts in the toddler’s mind. In fact, “mine” is one of the earliest words to come out of a toddler’s mouth. The growing child develops attachments to things as well as persons. This ability to form strong attachments is important to being an emotionally healthy person. The one-year-old has difficulty sharing her mommy; the two-year-old has difficulty sharing her teddy bear.
2. When to expect a child to share
True sharing implies empathy, the ability to get into another’s mind and see things from their viewpoint. Children are seldom capable of true empathy under the age of six. Prior to that time they share because you condition them to do so. Don’t expect a child less than two or 2½ to easily accept sharing. Children under two are into parallel play — playing alongside other children, but not with them. They care about themselves and their possessions and do not think about what the other child wants or feels.
But, given guidance and generosity, the selfish two-year-old can become a generous three or four-year-old. It’s easier to share with someone less powerful than you or less threatening, (i.e.someone younger,)—a visitor rather than a sibling, a quiet child rather than a demanding one. Much depends on your child’s temperament. Follow your child’s cues in judging when he is ready to share. Even at four or five years of age, expect selective sharing. A child may reserve a few precious possessions just for himself. The child is no more likely to share her treasured teddy or tattered blanket than you would share your wedding ring or the heirloom saree your mother gave you. Respect and protect your child’s right to his own possessions.
3. Don’t force a child to share
Instead, create attitudes and an environment that encourage your child to want to share. There is power in possession. To you, they’re only toys. To a child, they’re a valuable, prized collection that has taken years to assemble. Respect the normal possessiveness of children while you encourage and model sharing. Then watch how your child operates in a group play setting — you’ll learn a lot about your child and about what kind of guidance he’ll need. If your child is always the grabber, he’ll learn that other kids won’t want to play with him. If he’s always the victim, he needs to learn the power of saying “no.” At Eden Castle your child naturally goes through a “what’s in it for me” stage, which will progress into a more socially aware “what’s in it for us” stage. Gradually — with a little help from Teachers — children learn that life runs more smoothly if they share.
4. Get connected
A child gives as he is given to. We have observed that children who received attachment parenting during the first two years are more likely to become sharing children in the years to come, for two reasons. Children who have been on the receiving end of generosity follow the model they’ve been given and become generous persons themselves. Also, a child who feels right is more likely to share.
5. Model generosity when you teach your child to share
Monkey see, monkey do. If big monkey shares, so will little monkey. When someone asks to borrow one of your “toys,” make this a teachable moment: “Mommy is sharing her cookbook with her friend.” Let your sharing shine. Share with your children: “Want some of my popcorn?” “Come sit with us — we’ll make room for you.” If you have several children, especially if they are close in age, there will be times when there isn’t enough of you to go around. Two children can’t have one hundred percent of one mommy or daddy. Do the best you can to divide your time fairly. “No fair” may be the single most frequently repeated complaint of childhood. Try to be an equal opportunity parent as much as possible, while teaching your children that other factors come into play in day-to-day life.
6. Play games
Play “Share Daddy.” Placing the two-year-old on one knee and the four-year-old on the other teaches both children to share their special person. Even a two-year-old can play “Share Your Wealth.” Give your two-year-old some flowers, crackers, blocks, or toys, and ask her to share them with everyone in the room: “Give one to big brother. Give one to Daddy.” You want to convey the message that sharing is a normal way of life and sharing spreads joy.
TEACHING LIFE PRINCIPLES THROUGH PLAY
A good way to model principles to a young child is through play.
Games hold a child’s attention, allowing lessons to sink in, in the spirit of fun. Children are more likely to remember what they have learned through play than what they’ve heard in your lectures. Consider the character traits that are fostered during a simple game: humor, fairness, honesty, generosity, concentration, flexibility, obedience to rules, sensitivity, competitiveness. And, sorry to say, unhealthy traits such as selfishness, jealousy, lying, and cheating can also be experienced through play. Expect play time to reflect how life is to be lived, and tolerate only principled play.
7. When to step in
While we don’t expect toddlers to be able to share, we use every opportunity we can to encourage taking turns. Teach your child how to communicate her needs to her friends. Say something like,
“When Saira is all done with the car, then you can ride it. Ask her when she will be done” or “Hold out your hand and wait; she’ll give you the doll when she’s ready.” When a toy squabble begins, sometimes it’s wise not to rush in and interfere. Our Teachers give children time and space to work it out among themselves. They stay on the sidelines and observe the struggle. If the group dynamics are going in the right direction and the children seem to be working the problem out among themselves, they stay a bystander. If the situation is deteriorating, the teachers intervene. Self-directed learning — with or without a little help from caregivers — has the most lasting value of all.
If your child has trouble sharing his toys and a playmate is coming over, ask the playmate’s parent to send toys along. Kids can’t resist toys that are new to them. Soon your child will realize that he must share his own toys in order to get his hands on his playmate’s. Or, if you are bringing your sharing child to the home of a non-sharing child, bring toys along. Some children develop a sense of justice and fairness at a very young age.
9. Protect your child’s interests as you teach your child to share
If your child clings to his precious possessions, respect this attachment, while still teaching him to be generous. It’s normal for a child to be selfish with some toys and generous with others. Guard the prized toy. Pick it up if the other child tries to snatch it. You be the scapegoat. Ease your child into sharing. Before play begins, help your child choose which toys he will share with playmates and which ones he wants to put away or reserve for himself. You may have to play referee: “This is Aaryan’s special birthday toy. You may play with these other ones until he’s ready to share.” Respect ownership. The larger the family, the more necessary it is to arrive at a balance between respecting ownership and teaching sharing. Point out, “That’s Aaryan’s toy… but this one belongs to the whole family.” And, of course, encourage trading. Children easily learn the concept of family toys/things, such as television, which everyone shares.
10.Give your child opportunities to share
To encourage sharing, Give your child a whole cookie packet with the request, Please give some of the cookie to your friends at school.