10 tips to more peaceful sharing

Come 18 months, your child may be up for the dreaded tantrums and the beginning of ‘mine’.  You see for the first couple of years, a child believes they are an extension of their mother, until through brain development, the little one works out they are actually their own person…..  Bring on Master Independence, Miss No and little Master MINE!  These once innocent children suddenly have their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and honestly believe that everything IS theirs.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but your child is not trying to cause fights because they want to.  They are not naughty.

So how do you help your child to share and take turns, especially when other children are in the equation?  The first thing to have a think about is the difference between sharing and turn-taking.  There is a difference!  So sharing means that your child may give part of something in their possession whilst they share it with the other child (think ‘here you can have one of my grapes’, ‘you can draw with my pencils with me’).  This can be easier than turn-taking which involves handing treasured items over and spending agonising time waiting for who-knows-how-long.  For this post, I will talk about sharing meaning both sharing and turn-taking.

There may not be a correct answer, but one question I do ask is ‘how much should a parent step in and coordinate sharing?‘ versus stepping back and letting children learn through experience (obviously not to the point of physical aggression).  

Here are 10 points to think about when dealing with children struggling to share.

1. It depends on age.  The way you help your two-year-old to share will be very different to your four-year-old.  You may step in less with the older children and leave them to sort things out of their own accord.  For the younger ones, you will use far less language to help negotiate sharing (think 2 word phrases until you are sure they understand, through repetition, how sharing works).

2. Have a rule on ‘special toys’ that you will always stand up for.  Your child needs to know and understand which toys are their own ‘special toys’ that other children are not allowed free access to (think special present, comforter, favourite book).  The less the better, to avoid extra work for you and your child ‘protecting’ them all.  These are the ones you might pack away when other children come to visit or you will always give back to it’s owner if the sibling manages to get hold!

3. Teach the concept ‘wait’.  Waiting is a very hard concept for a young child to grasp as it happens in many different scenarios (think waiting in line at the post office, waiting for dinner, waiting for a turn on the swing) and it is nearly always for a different length in time.  Sometimes it’s not even clear to the child when waiting has finished (unless you signal ‘finished waiting’).  Learning and defining the sign ‘wait’ (click on hyperlink to see) can be ideal as you will most likely be signing this for a while to come in many scenarios, especially in turn-taking and even when you can’t talk (think mouth full, on the phone).  Signing can also help to distract your child.

4.  Have a rule about ‘no touching’ (snatching) when another child has their hands on a toy and ‘use your words’ instead.  You can reinforce this even for the youngest ones by helping your child to take their hands off the toy being used and model ‘mine?’ (placing their hand on their chest can be a good natural gesture (my/mine) to reinforce the concept).  This is when you sign ‘wait’.  Part 2 of this post will go into more about what to do when the other child says ‘no!’.

5. Ensure a consistent waiting time for each child.  If there are any little ones involved, you might have to stick with ‘two minutes’ for everyone’s turns.  Preschool kids can definitely learn to wait longer such as ‘five minutes’ or ‘until Jack has ridden around the path’ or ‘when Sarah has finished her painting’.

6. Be consistent with the language you use.  Children will share better when they understand how the ‘rules’ work.  Using repetitive language (such as ‘Johnny’s turn, Sarah’s turn next…wait….then Sarah’s turn’) helps to make each sharing scenario more predictable and hence help to keep your child calmer. 

Think about this: The child that can stop and listen to your words about how the sharing scenario will work, and understand that they will have another turn after a short period (say 2 minutes), will be more likely to succeed at sharing than the one that doesn’t understand what is happening and allows their brain to ‘flip it’s lid’ (meaning they get so worked up they then cannot think straight to calm down and understand the situation).  Because of this, it is so important to pick the best words for your child to understand and say them the same way each time.

7. Choose your battles.  Sometimes it is easier just to have two of the same item, when you know it will matter!

8. The more you put in, the more you get back.  It can be hard work negotiating but as I’ve said above, the more consistent you are in setting up the rules, the quicker your children will come around and hopefully transfer this to sharing with others outside the home.  Sometimes you will be just putting in energy not stepping in and seeing how the children learn themselves.

9. Keep in mind personality.  Some children are more easy-going and yes this transfers onto sharing.  They will probably be able to let go of their turn much more easily than the persistent child that digs their heels in and resists transitions (especially without warning!).  Not that you want to treat each child differently, but you will want to give more understanding for these persistent ones ;).

10. Mind the ‘martyrdom’.  This can be a tricky one for some parents.  Does your child really need you to step in and help?

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The ‘sharing’ cartoon strip!

Thanks for visiting I raise my kids! You can also find us on Facebook for more tips as well as posts or on Google+ 🙂 Heidi

The ex-perfectionist in me butted out!

This is the work of a 22mth old and not an ex-perfectionist mum! Whilst I still have a tendency to straighten things and show my children how to do things even better, I know my ‘fixing’ these pieces for my son would only suggest to him ‘you didn’t do it quite right’. And right now a 22mth old should be allowed to do it as his brain sees it and be proud of his own work!

hooray! you did it!

hooray! you did it!

Just a couple of things I’ve really learnt from the excellent Emotional Anatomy of a Yogi workshop I attended – excellence over perfectionism (we can never achieve anything perfectly according to quantum science) and enough of the martyrdom (let them lead their life, stop stepping in). Still on my to-get-better-at list!

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You’ll need to learn that yourself…

Martyrdom – when a mum (or dad) steps in on their child’s life too much, which prevents the child from living their own life and making their own mistakes. It can be the little things like stepping in to help too much or even to the point of providing too much for your child, preventing them from learning the value in hard work. It can start from when the child is very young.

The disadvantages of stepping in too much:
– your child can learn ‘learned helplessness’ when they figure Mum or Dad will do it for me (and this can carry into adolescence and adulthood)
– they may perceive they can’t do something well because the parent is helping them so much
– they may miss out on important lessons in life and the chance to problem solve themselves
– the PARENT can be stressed and low in energy from living too much of their child’s life
– the parent starts to lose ‘who they are’ as they are so engrossed in their child’s life
– martyrdom is linked with the pancreas and bitterness (as I found out at the recent emotional anatomy of yoga workshop I went to) which lets us know that this can affect our health if we take on martyrdom too much in our life

This is a big one and crops up in so many aspects of parenting that we have probably all stepped into this at one time or another. And remember, there is a clear difference between an ‘involved parent’ and one that is living in their child’s shoes a bit too much.

The ‘answer’ is to instead take on a teaching/encouraging role.

If you’d like a bit more information, you could check out ‘Are You a Mother or a Martyr? How Much is Too Much When “Doing” for Your Child?’ at Empowering Parents. But more importantly, why not take the time to reflect where you could step back from your child’s life…. and also how you can step into your own life more (think putting that energy into your own interests!).