Is sharing an issue in your house? We often hear the term ‘Sharing is caring’, but how easy is it to teach little ones?
Selfishness comes before sharing
Yes, this is true… however, Toddlers by nature have a strong sense of ownership. 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 the mother. “I do it myself!” and “mine!” scream the headlines in the toddler’s tabloid. 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. Some children get so attached to a toy that the raggedy old doll becomes part of the child’s self. When asked to draw a picture of herself, four-year-old Chaitra would always include her doll — as if it were part of her body. Can you imagine convincing her to share this doll with a playmate? It was too important. She could not feel safe and secure if that doll was being handled by another child.
For toddlers, toys are very special possessions and the first things they get to know to be their own as they grow in the home environment. Clinging to toys and not sharing them with others is a common dilemma among parents of young children, especially when more than one toddler is involved. It is also a learned skill that our toddlers need to develop over time.
When to expect that your child will share?
Developmentally, an average two years old cannot be expected to share and will generally not understand the concept of sharing until around pre-school age.
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. As children begin to play with each other and cooperate in their play, they begin to see the value of sharing.
Recognizing why you want your kids to share should also be considered. “Parents often insist their child share because of the embarrassment they feel in front of other parents when their child doesn’t share,” Trinkets & More Mom says, adding that parents shouldn’t force the matter. “Getting angry at them shows kids that sharing is just about getting yelled at.” Instead, you could try an alternative approach.
An alternative to focusing on sharing is to encourage your child to take turns.
So what is the difference?
To share is to divide something among one or more people.
To take turns is to temporarily part with something, knowing it will come back to you.
To share means it may not come back. The task is very open ended in its outcome and would leave a lot unanswered for a young child. Turn taking offers the security and knowing that the opportunity will return to the child.
Taking turns is much easier to understand
Turn taking is an important life skill that enables a child to build and maintain healthy relationships throughout their life. It is also paramount for speech development. I am confident in saying that I am sure you know firsthand how frustrating it is to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t listen or answer back.
1. Start young. From the time your child can grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing the object back and forth while saying “my turn, your turn.” One of the first turn taking experiences for a baby is a game of “Peek a Boo”. Their parent or sibling covers their eyes with their hands, baby waits in anticipation for their beloved family members return and then BOO! Babies response is often a smile, coo or giggle which is amongst their first forms of communication. Baby has entered into the exchange of communication and waiting their turn to respond.
2. Be a role model. Practice sharing with your child at home and make it fun. Tell your toddler that you want to share the couch for a cuddle or talk about taking turns while enjoying an ice cream cone together.
3. Make belief. Trinkets & More recommends co-operative games that don’t involve a single winner for children three years old and up. While competition isn’t bad, it isn’t appropriate for preschoolers.
4. Bring a pocket timer to play dates. When it rings, it’s your child’s turn to give a toy to her friend, then she gets it back once the timer rings again, and so on. “They start learning that giving something away isn’t for always,”. (Remember to give the other child’s parent a heads-up before the playdate, to ensure they’re on board.)
Educational Toys with a clear beginning, middle and end are great visual aids to assist with turn taking.
Speeding Car - Track Set come with four lightning queens to click-clack their way down the track. Once a child has run all four cars down, they can collect them all and pass them onto their friend so they may enjoy the race track too.
Screw Vehicle - Reassembly Car is your littles ones next big DIY project, that can be completely taken down and built up. You can take a turn in multiple ways, one child can unscrew the vehicle while the other builds it up or they play with the hammer striking the ball down in turns. Decision is all theirs!
Gliding Car - Track Set come with 3 lightning queens to click-clack their way down the track a bit faster than the speeding car.
A parent/care taker recognizing the process will reinforce the purpose of the task for the child. By reflecting on how their actions make you feel, you will assist the child in developing a healthy range of emotions as they mature.
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