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The MINE! Field
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The MINE! Field
July 9, 2018
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The MINE! Field
July 9, 2018
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When I mentioned to a group of mum pals that I was writing a feature on getting toddlers to share, I was met with sarcasm laden scoffs of “that’ll be short!”, “would love to read that one!” and a very witty “fiction piece is it?” I think that pretty aptly lays out what being a parent trying to get your small one to share is like. Witticisms aside though, teaching a child that they need to share is a challenging but crucial life skill – even though most of the time it feels about as worthwhile as reading poems to a horse.

My daughter is fairly good at sharing and this is solely down to my husband and I drumming into her daily that sharing is kind, grown-up and something everyone has to do. Early on, we devised a ‘Count To Ten’ rule whereby you may play with said toy/book/game for the (slow) count of ten and then it’s time to hand it over to the other child for their ten, no questions asked. It’s worked well in our house but it was only when I took her to playgroup and a little boy was on a motorbike she wanted, that I realised it didn’t translate to the outside world.

“It’s entirely unrealistic to ask toddlers to share”

Rather than snatch, whinge or cry, she stood right next to him, counting to ten. Naturally, the boy not being familiar with this rule perceived this ‘Rain Man’ style behaviour as plain weird and ignored her, leaving me in a tricky situation when she asked me why it wasn’t working. As I saw it, my options were to:

a.) Ask the boy directly if she could have a turn (felt a bit borderline intimidating a minor),
b.) Tell Wren that our omnipotent sharing rule was in fact, entirely fallible (nope)
c.) Appeal to his mother.

Seeing her sitting on the plastic chairs, engrossed in conversation with another mum, I approached in an apologetic manner and asked if it would it be possible for her child to finish his turn and let mine have a go. The look she returned me was somewhere on the scale between “you’ve got to be kidding me” and “curl up and die” but she skulked off and removed her kid from the bike which resulted in him bursting into loud, inconsolable tears. Unable to back out now I smiled awkwardly, plonked Wren on the bike and pushed her out of sight. Did I do the right thing? I have no idea, but children have an acute sense of injustice and they’re incensed when another child doesn’t have to follow the same rules.

I have a friend who believes it’s entirely unrealistic to ask toddlers to share because it’s not yet within their emotional capacity, so she doesn’t demand it of her child. Consequently, we have endured some incredibly awkward meet-ups observing my kid getting every toy snatched off her. I actually believe she’s right but if you don’t start teaching children to share as toddlers, surely they get a real shock at school age when they’re suddenly expected to know how? It’s not a natural instinct to want to share (hell, I get twitchy when someone suggests going for tapas) but instilling it at a young age helps them grow up into considerate, respectful adults, so for now I’m going to keep banging my sharing drum.

The best sharing advice I’ve heard:

1. Before a playdate, ask your child if there are any super special toys they’d like to put in their rooms or a secret cupboard but explain that everything else they’re agreeing to share.

2. Arrange your furniture to create a bigger or slightly broken-up playing space so children can have their own play area. The more they’re on top of each other, the more they’ll snatch and argue over toys.

3. Steer children towards multiple toys that can be played with simultaneously like a whole tea sets, doctors kits, farmyard animals etc.

4. Allow them some conflict resolution and a few moments to fight it out so they learn that sometimes they don’t win (but absolutely be ready to diffuse the situation if needs be).

5. Suggest less conflicting activities like painting together, making Duplo towers or playdoh.

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