One of Baby Love’s current favorite games to play with our dog, Toby, is to find one of his toys, wave it in his face until he wants it, and then pull it back, cradle it, and run away, shaking her head and saying, “Nonononononono!” If he loses interest she’ll follow him and repeat, but if he gets it from her she often gets upset. The poor dog isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do; he’s such a good sport. She loves having his attention but doesn’t love losing control of anything, including one of his toys. It’s pretty hilarious to watch.
Less hilarious was when I recently took her to an open play at a community center gym and when other kids came up to play with what she was playing with she looked at them, shook her head, and said, “Nononononono!”
Sharing. The bane of every toddler parent’s time at playdates.
Toddlers are too young to understand sharing. They have no Theory of Mind. If they want it, it’s theirs. If it makes them happy, it makes everyone happy. They physically cannot understand seeing something from another person’s point of view. Literally. Their brains have not developed that capacity yet. It is impossible.
And yet, we expect them to share. If you have a child who grabs or a child who refuses to give up what they’re playing with when another child grabs, all eyes focus on you to see how you’re going to handle it.
As an adult, if someone walked up to me while I was on my phone and demanded it right then, I’d be annoyed. If they asked I might say in a minute when I was done, because I understand that it would make them happy and help them, or I might say no. I would be extremely unlikely to drop what I was doing and hand it to them right then with a smile.
Yet that is how we expect children to “share”. To give something up instantly simply because another person wants it. We say we are teaching them to think of the feelings of others, but until they are 4 or 5 this is something they cannot understand. Forced “sharing”, or the immediate relinquishment of a prize as soon as another expresses interest, then cannot teach empathy and kindness but can only teach resentment.
For this reason I am approaching the sharing dilemma from the other side. Rather than teaching Baby Love to give up a toy when someone else wants it, I teach her not to demand a toy from another if someone else has it. I say constantly, “It is his turn now. When he is all done, you can have a turn.” Turn taking. That is a type of sharing that is, in my opinion, developmentally appropriate for a toddler.
It’s working well for us. Now if I say my refrain, 95% of the time Baby Love will let go of whatever she was trying to get and turn her attention elsewhere. She’s not yet to the stage where she’ll wait her turn, but she has learned that she cannot simply take what she wants and expect others to “share”.
(Of course, it helped that she is a very confident child who had no problem grabbing things, so she had lots of opportunities to practice waiting her turn!)
However, at the open gym the flaw in this strategy became apparent. What about situations where true sharing, multiple people using something at once, really is appropriate? Where “sharing” doesn’t mean giving up your turn, but allowing someone else to take a turn with you? One object in question was a pop up tunnel that Baby Love had been playing in when other kids came to join her. I sidestepped the problem by showing her how all the kids were crawling the same way, so she could crawl through then go get back in line to do it again, just like with a slide. I doubt I’ll always be able to sidestep it, though.
Oh, sharing. I thought I had an approach to you figured out, but I guess I have more figuring to do.
“House”warming give away day 2: Toddler book!
(Find day 1 here)
To celebrate my shiny new blog I’m going to give away several books (since you might have noticed I’m a book addict). Today’s give away is for a book for toddlers, namely, a hardback copy of Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a classic children’s book that everyone has read! The repetition is great for learning language, appeals to toddlers, and it makes it a good book for starting readers to tackle. The iconic illustrations by Eric Carle are recognized by all. A long time favorite!
Official Rules: No purchase necessary. Giveaway restricted to US. I purchased the book for this giveaway, I was in no way compensated by anyone for doing it, all thoughts and opinions and gratitude are entirely my own. Entries close at midnight pacific time on January 26. Prize is a hard cover copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Sandra Boynton. The number of eligible entries received determine the odds of winning. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget above. Winner will be selected randomly. The winner will be contacted by e-mail and have 48 hours to respond. If they do not respond, a new winner will be drawn. I have the right to publicize the winner’s name on my blog. Void where prohibited by law.