I was recently inspired by a great post from MOMtessorilife called Why We Don’t Make Our Kids Share–And Why They Do Anyway to post our own sharing story.
My son is 13 months old and he is absolutely fascinated by the two older (2.5 and 3 years old) girls that I care for at various times during the week. Every time one of them selects something to work on, M wants to grab it immediately. This, as you can see, is not pleasing to our guests.
My first tactic was to distract M to allow the girls to concentrate. This was all in vain. I usually wound up holding him in my lap while we watched the other child work as he wiggled and reached for the items in use. Watching M react this way to their use of an item usually made the girls feel possessive and likely run away with the item. It also made M feel really great too (not)!
Even though I thought M might be to young to understand the idea of waiting until another child is done with an item, I decided to try it anyway. It actually works!
Here’s how it works:
- When M tries to grab a toy from another child’s hands I stop him by putting my hand between M and the desired item.
- I then say, so that both children can hear, “So and so will let you know when she is done by putting the ball down or by putting the ball in your hands.”
- The other child hears this and feels comforted that I am not going to randomly decide when she should be done exploring the ball. She also gets an indirect nudge to “share” when she is ready. ( In my experience, the child with the desired item has used the toy for about 3 more minutes maximum and has then taken great joy in handing it to M. Giving the item to M seems to make the other child feel very empowered in her ability to choose kindness independently.)
- While M waits, I offer him a different option or I help him wait by holding him in my lap. After a few times with this new approach, M started going off to find something else on his own and when the other child came to give him the item that he had wanted, he was hardly interested in it any more.
- When the child comes to give M the item I say, “Look M, so and so is sharing this with you.” This is truly sharing when the child with the item chooses to share from intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivation (me insisting or setting a timer of some sort).
I am loving this approach because it removes me (the adult) from being the center of attention. If I am timing the children while they use certain works and then saying, “time’s up! Switch toys!”, I am acting as the external locus of control for the children, rather than a guide helping them develop their own, internal locus of control. It is truly exhausting to be the adult center of attention all of the time. Take a break and let the children decide when they are done using items!
I have also noticed that I can use this approach when a child wants something that M has. We were recently in the car with one of the girls that I watch, when she asked for the wooden rattle that M had. I said, “M, let so and so know when you are done by handing her the rattle.” A minute or so later I saw the rattle flying from M’s carseat to hers. He had thrown the rattle over to her. I was so excited. My kid shared!!
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