Friday, August 20, 2010

On Sharing

It's interesting that my husband posted about "terrible two's" this morning, because I already had a similar post forming in my own little brain.

With my oldest and middle children I didn't hear "NO MINE!" anywhere near as much as I do with Charlie. And I have determined this is because we spend so much time with Charlie's good friend Jordyn. My other children did not have another 2 year old invading their home and rifling through their stuff :) Anna had her cousin Ryleigh, and they did fight over things as well but at the age of 2 they did not see eachother quite so much as Charlie and Jordyn do. Cole - he had Thomas - but Thomas is so laid back and Cole has almost always been very willing to share his stuff.

But Charlie and Jordyn don't live together and they are not family and they have to sort this whole thing out and that is why I am posting my thoughts on the matter.

A recent clash while camping (where there were 3 girls aged almost 4 to 4 and a half, and 3 two year olds who were all within 6 weeks of age of eachother - that being - JUST two) got me thinking about how we as parents get our toddlers and preschoolers though this age where sharing is such an issue.

Charlie has a backpack full of his favourite stuff (cars and duplo) in the cabin where we were all hanging out during a storm, and he was over tired. He was losing his cool about other kids playing with his toys.

I could attempt to force him to share. Because sharing is good.
I could tell the other kids that they are Charlie's favourite toys and he doesn't want to share
I could take all the toys away.

What I have observed most often at playgrounds, playgroups, etc - is the attempt to force sharing option.

Sometimes this works, but is it really fair? In the same livingroom that day, I picked up the 10 year olds iPod and his brother piped up and informed me that I'd better not touch it because it's his brothers. Well, Okay then. The 10 year old doesn't have to share.

Should my 2 year old understand that his beloved cars are fair game to be played with by anyone who shows interest in them? That seems a little out of reach for a 2 year old and really - not the way we operate as adults. Do we lend out our car to somebody who wants it - somebody we don't really know all that well? Of course not. And if somebody took it without our permission, I think we'd be pretty upset. If my close friend wanted to borrow my car, that would be a different story - but I don't expect my 2 year old to understand friendship that well.

Normally Charlie will let others play with his thing, but that is where the OVERTIRED came in to play. There was no negotiation or soothing that the other kids would give back the cars when they are done. So the toys went away and distraction was brought forward.

Why do *we* as parents *make* kids share? Why do we firmly insist that our young child give up something of theirs when they do not want to - so that another child can have a turn? (I am not talking about taking turns with a swing at the park or an activity).

The way I see it - encouraging kids to share, modeling generosity, but not forcing the issue works better. The child does not feel violated and therefore even more possessive of their things. By NOT *making* your 2 year old share, you are actually helping them to be generous and giving and willing to share as they get older. A little encouragement and praise when they get it right will go a long way. Sometimes you can help the other kid who wants the toy understand and find something similar to do. Sometimes you have to just put the toys away. And sometimes telling your child that the other child will give it back and "see how happy they are to have a turn!" is enough to end the issue.

When I see a parent rip a reclaimed toy out of their childs hands and hand it back to the child who wanted to play with it, with their child screaming, kicking, arching their back and inconsolable - I feel pretty bad for that child. Obviously they don't understand sharing. In my opinion - the snatching by the parent and the overwhelming frustration by the child are not the circumstances and actions that foster a calmer and more giving reaction from that child next time. But that's just the way I see it ;)


  1. Good thoughts, Kate. Children are born into this world thinking the world really revolves around them, and it does take a lot of time and patience to teach them otherwise. I agree with you that it is very hard for a two-year-old to share his favourite toys.

    I'm always amazed when I see little ones sharing of their own free will. Yesterday I asked little Matthew for a bite of whatever he was eating, and he grinned and held it up to my mouth, no problem. Maybe food is easier to share than cars, because there's more where that came from. But I was still delighted by his willingness to share.

  2. I can see that. ;)

    We've put away favourite toys before. I don't 'force' my kids to share their special toys. But things in the general 'toy bucket' are first-come, first served.

    We haven't had a two year old for a few years, but we'll experience that joy again next year. ;)

  3. I feel for you! My two, now three year old's are learning this lesson. Fortunately Matthew is so easy going that he really doesn't care too much who has what, as long as he has SOMETHING.

    Good thoughts.