The word that strikes fear into the heart of most parents …sharing!
Well, I’ve got a secret……I hate sharing and I bet you do too!
As adults, we have our belongings and are comfortable knowing that, unless they are stolen, they are ours to keep for as long as we want them for. Our brand new iPhone, our Kindle that we treasure, our jewellery and books, just a few examples. These are ours and we have control over them. Take that control away and we would feel uncomfortable and jittery. Imagine coming back to your desk after a bathroom break finding a colleague happily using your phone. Having to let someone through the door into your home to rifle through your belongings or being forced to share your lunch! It’s the same for our children yet we insist that they have to share their favourite toy or an apple with their playmate! They might be perfectly okay with this but if they’re not it is understandable.
Now, this isn’t to say that it’s okay for our children to have a total meltdown and to attack any other child who approaches the vicinity of their property or whatever they are playing with at the time. However, I also don’t think it’s okay to insist that our children share everything that is precious to them.
Let me explain…
In my last blog post, how to stop a public toddler tantrum in its tracks, I suggested taking a step back and empathising with how our child is feeling and this scenario is no different. We can imagine that they might feel scared, outraged and upset that they can’t play with their toy. They might feel totally out of control, especially not knowing when or if they will get it back. This can all culminate in frustration overload. However, sharing and turn taking are part of childhood and whilst keeping you child’s feelings foremost in your mind, there are strategies that you can put into place to ensure they can share but still feel in control, stopping the frustration attacks we know as tantrums.
How Parents Can Help
Understand, reassure and preempt problems. If you have playmates coming over then encourage your child to put their favourite toys out of sight and to choose some toys that they don’t mind other children playing with. You could even consider having a bag of toys that only come out when friends come over; this lack of ownership by anyone can often stop any issues from starting at all. Encourage other children to bring some of their own toys too and always do the same if you are off to play at a friend’s house.
If Conflict Arises
If a conflict arises leave it for a little while to see if the children can sort the issues between themselves. It is good to give children a chance to smooth over conflict by themselves, even if as parents, we want to dive in and help. If they can’t, or it’s escalating, then try using distraction techniques with maybe another toy, a new activity or story time for example. Keep in mind that tiredness might make the situation worse and it might be time for a rest.
Teach your child how to ask to share something that has caught their eye, rather than the snatch and grab that can happen. When you see your child sharing or taking turns your child does share then praise them….a lot! Be descriptive in your praise too and describe exactly what you are praising. Children love to hear praise, as we all do, and it will encourage repeat behaviour and strong self-esteem.
Change The Words You Use
It can be helpful to change the word ‘share’ to ‘take turns’. This will let your child know that they will get their toy returned and it isn’t gone forever and it will enable them to keep a sense of control over the situation. You can use a kitchen timer to make sure everyone gets their turn. Children will learn to listen out for this and know it’s time to pass it on or get it back.
Teaching Basic Empathy
Teach your child basic emotions when they arise in day to day life. Saying that ‘Mummy feels sad’ or ‘Daddy is tired’ might not seem very much but it can help a child normalise feelings and learn basic empathy. This will come to be invaluable when your child is mixing with others and learning to understand the world around them. Feelings can be overwhelming if they are not kept in check and this is one way to help.
Demonstrating Good Behaviour
Demonstrate simple turn taking and sharing as part of your family life. Point out that you are taking turns when playing games. Ask them to help when you are sharing the food out at snack time. Building awareness of what these terms mean can really help a child to understand what it all means. It can help reassure them they are not losing control forever and ensure that your child understands that sharing doesn’t always mean things will be broken up like the morning snack time orange!
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take that step back and think about how your child is feeling. We want our children to behave in a perfect manner so we can relax and feel comfortable around others. But they are complex little people with so much to learn and process every day so it’s easy for frustration to take over as they try to juggle all these major emotions. Sometimes all that’s needed is understanding and a cuddle when it all gets too much. It’s so important to keep an awareness of how your words can be perceived by your child. Remember what might seem like a ‘nothing’ incident to your adult mind might feel like the end of the world to them.
Never forget to take it easy on yourself. Every day is a challenge and all we can do is our best. Sometimes as we tuck our little people into bed we feel that we could have understood them better. Hold in your mind that every day is a learning curve. Tomorrow will bring even more opportunities to learn together.
P.S. We always like to add in a couple of affiliate links to each post that we think might be of interest to you as a parent. If you choose to click a link and make a purchase on that really cool new item (for you or your baby!) then it’s at NO EXTRA COST to you. We receive a small commission from the retailer and that helps us with the running costs of the website, business and blog. Thanks for all your AMAZING support! Love Caroline & Sharon xx