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Sharing and Young Children
|by Garima Gupta|
I met an otherwise intelligent lady yesterday, who was worried sick over her 26 month old son's 'selfish' behavior. She told me that her son, Arjun, is not ready to share any of his toys with his friends. She wondered if Arjun would grow up into a selfish, self-centered person. I wondered if this mother really remembers her sons age! 26 months old, that's all. This toddler wasn't even aware of toys 20 months back, wasn't aware of the concept of ownership 10 months back, and today he is expected to share!! How unfair indeed.
Many parents worry about their kids not sharing toys etc. with their friends. How much of this worry is justified, and that too, when? Can we teach our children to become sharing people? How?
It is important to recognize that sharing is not a natural process. Not just kids, but even adults find it difficult to share stuff close to their heart. Sharing is an acquired habit, acquired in order to achieve either parents' approval or playmates company or their toys and so on. In essence, some sort of reward expectation is essentially inherent in sharing. Sharing is very difficult for kids less than 3 years of age, and really should not be expected of them. When they guard their stuff, it's quite natural, and ought to be treated as another developmental milestone.
However, things do get different with older children. They need to be taught the concept of sharing, AND the happiness that it brings. Sometimes it is difficult for children to understand what exactly we mean by sharing. 4 year old Neha might think, 'Will Ratnesh return my truck after playing? Afterall, when I shared a cookie, he ate it, and it's not going to come back!' When we speak of sharing in a playground or school environment, then the meaning changes to 'taking turns' as while the playground swing belongs to no one child, the truck does belong to Neha.
The difficulties associated with sharing are aplenty. A child might not like sharing his own toys with friends , but is okay at taking turns on the slide. Another child may be a bully, not realizing other's ownership and taking toys by force. Another extreme might be a child so afraid by such a bully, that he is not able to resist the bully, but is upset by the loss of his toy. One more typical case is the fight between siblings, which generally start with a newly mobile baby. Luckily, help is at hand for all these cases. Here are some easy, practical suggestions, that would help your child and you cope up with the trouble of sharing for ever :
All these techniques work well. But the most important thing to remember is, do not force sharing. Forcing ruins the concept that sharing can ultimately lead to a joyful relationship with other people. May be she's not in a mood today. Tomorrow is, after all, another day.
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