I want to share something that might be a bit controversial. Here it is: For now, I’m not going to make my son share. Not even after he snatches a toy from another child. And even though (currently, at least) he is by far more often the one snatched from, I don’t expect another child’s parent to make their kid share with mine. Am I just being crazy?
The thought process that led up to this decision started with the simple fact that in my experience, kids around the same age as mine do not seem to share well. Nix that- they just do not share. No matter how or what the parents try to do to intervene, two seconds later someone is wresting a toy from another child’s hand again.
Now that Sean is getting a bit older (he’ll be two next month), I have noticed an increasing pull toward ‘making him share.’ Seems almost everyone else is doing it. Shouldn’t I? What to do when your kid is taking something from another and maybe even making the other child cry?
So I asked myself some questions:
Is it even developmentally appropriate to expect children in the 18 month to 3 year old range to share? And if so, how do we
make encourage them do it? Does the way us parents try to make them share really help them learn to do it next time?
I did some research [read: looked it up on Google] and found me some answers. One of the first articles I found was on not sharing: The inspiration for this post. But more on that at the end.
One of the very next articles I noted was “How to Get Kids to Share.” I totally related to the intro question and it began to answer some of my questions. For example…
“…18-month-olds don’t yet have the impulse control to stop themselves from doing something they want to do, even if they have been corrected countless times.”
However, the article goes on to take a parent controlled approach to manage ‘sharing’ during playtime. While I think some of the suggestions are helpful, I can’t help but think that some of the ‘teaching kids to share’ is more like ‘get him used to what I’m going to make him do until he is actually old enough to understand and initiate real sharing.’ This article says kids can’t truly share until 2.5-3 years old. Maybe right now I just don’t have the energy to spend ‘teaching’ him something he really can’t grasp, won’t do and that he’ll learn much more readily when he’s old enough.
For a differing opinion, a more technical article on what age kids really learn to share, and why, read this article. –Spoiler alert– It starts off like this:
Three- and 4-year-olds are selfish and not likely to share — hardly news to any parent who has presided over a toddler play date. The good news is children do develop altruism and the desire for things to be fair by the time they are 7 or 8, according to a Swiss study.
I do think kids can start learning to share much younger than this. I am not suggesting that kids are incapable of sharing before age 7. I just wonder if inundating them with forceful interventions and commands to “Share!” are the best way to teach them. I wonder if there is more value in giving kids time to try and figure things out amongst themselves, even if there might be tears and upset. Wasn’t that happening anyway?
I know Sean can and does share already- sometimes. I’m writing about this idea of letting kids not share primarily because it is such a shift from what I am naturally inclined to do myself.
So what to do instead of trying to make our toddlers share? I like the RIE approach presented in the first article I linked: “These Toddlers Are NOT Sharing.” She writes, “…infants and toddlers define fun, play and learning quite differently than their elders. They approach social situations, even those that turn into minor conflicts, with curiosity and openness.” If we are too quick to intervene, we can miss out on what our kids are really capable of doing. “I think you’ll see that toddlers are not only capable problem solvers, they are ingenious, tenacious, accepting and forgiving.”
Here are some notes about interventions she used in the video that I’d love to incorporate.
“1. Beginning around this age, I gently try to encourage the children to use language (like “no”) with each other, so they will be less inclined to hit or push (or allow themselves to be hit or pushed).
2. At RIE, we don’t believe in using a blaming tone when there is conflict, so that children don’t identify themselves as victims or aggressors. Instead, we ‘sportscast’ the situation non-judgmentally and matter-of-factly. Infants and toddlers are just learning and experimenting, and we want to give them the confidence to continue to do so. “
‘Nuff said. I’m bracing myself for some serious feedback- I shared, now it’s your turn!