I want so badly for my children to be thoughtful, giving people who think of others first. Kindness is what I try to impart to them day in and day out. But should children share?
This is a typical scenario at our home.
“Mawwwwwwm, he won’t share with meeeee!!!”
Instantly, I feel the energy that I had a second earlier start to ooze from me. It’s as though a reverse IV (yes, that is something that I totally made up) was tied to my arm and the second my ears hear the phrase “won’t share with me,” a Pavolvian experience starts to take place. The extra patience I had just moments ago is flowing out of me through the reverse IV, and my body begins to slightly droop…feeling heavier and heavier.
Teaching children to share is hard! Right now I only have two children to help guide through this process, but in the past I’ve had an entire classroom to help with this. Can you imagine what it is like to bring out something during circle time for 20 three-year-olds to see all at once. It’s like a circle of mini lobsters, with little hands opening and closing, each wanting to see it. And by see it, I really mean touch it!
The biggest golden nugget I’ve learned from a large class is that sharing is not always the best option. In fact, sharing is not even my “go to” option.
We hear the term “share” often, but it is consistently misused. The definition of the verb “share” is to“have a portion of (something) with another or others” or to “give a portion of (something) to another or others.” This is taken from Oxford Dictionaries. The key to this definition is that sharing includes a portion of something.
While in circle time, I learned that with so many little ones that we couldn’t all share at once. It wasn’t reasonable or even possible in many situations. And in a few instances we learned that sharing sometimes caused misfortune, especially when a favorite doll’s arm was accidentally torn off. That was a sad day, indeed.
So in other words, sharing works best with children when it comes to things such as meal time as we pass a bowl of apple slices and each child only takes a couple and leaves the rest for everyone else. Another time that we share is around a sensory table. When I set up the water table and pass around the scoops, I rely on the children to share the water and space with one another.
There are also tons of opportunities where we don’t really want children to share though. While I am happy for my own children to share a cup of water or a bite of pizza with one another or myself, this concept does not work in all situations. When I take my daughter to the grocery store, imagine the reaction if I were to tell her “Sweetheart, why don’t you go share your chapstick with that child standing next to the bagels.” I’m pretty sure the mother of that child would insist otherwise. In reality sharing is not always appropriate. Children should not always be sharing.
Sometimes sharing is completely out of the question too. When a child has a lovey, so a blanket or stuffed animal that has a purpose of bringing comfort to the child (which is used daily), I would never ask them to share that.
Although it is super sweet when they do have moments when they offer it. It just melts my heart to see a child offer his lovey to a younger sibling or a sad friend.
So when sharing is not the best option, what exactly is it most appropriate for children to do?
When we tell children to take turns instead of sharing, we are giving them a great way to practice the skills they will need to cooperate with others. This is a foundational life skill.
I even let children help brainstorm about this. It amazes me how I can ask a child a simple question that will unlock the magical doors to taking turns:
“How many minutes until you will be finished so that your friend can have a turn?”
This works beautifully 90% of the time as the child says a number and is very good about following through. Many times I’ve not even had to tell them their time is up, and they will still pass it along.
Now, once they start getting older, then I hear things such as “I’ll be done in 100 hours.” Mmmmm, nice try.
When that happens, I’ll say “It sounds like you are really enjoying playing with this. We’ll give Jared a turn in five minutes, and once he’s finished, I’ll be sure to give you an extra turn.”
If there is still resistance, find a way to help the child brainstorm. It’s amazing how much more willing children are to participate when we make them part of the solution.
Save sharing for the less common occurrences, and instead, help them learn to take turns.