five + two =

We Don’t Share

Monday, October 15th, 2012 11:19 am | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke and her stroller

You know how when two children play together, the toy someone else is playing is always the BEST toy in the room? This is when I always hear parents and caretakers tell their children, “Sweetheart, you have to SHARE.”

Imagine this: you’re at dinner at a beautiful restaurant with your partner and two friends. The food comes and everyone starts enjoying the food in front of them. Then your partner turns, nudges you and says, “Honey, you should share your food with your friends.” How does that make you feel? Depending on the day, I can imagine I would have any or all of these responses, including “What, why? It’s MY food.” “Why do I have to share? Why don’t you share YOUR food?” and flat-out “um, NO.” Frankly, everyone else at the table would consider your partner to be nothing but plain rude. As adults, we respect someone’s right to share. We value sharing when it comes from within. If you have to ask someone to share, it’s not really sharing.

That’s why you never hear the word “share” in our house.

Two weeks ago, Mackenzie was playing with a toy stroller and Brooke wanted it. I heard the screaming and found Mackenzie holding onto the stroller while Brooke was trying to yank it out of her sister’s hands.  I got down to their eye-level, turned to Brooke and said, “Brooke, can you say, ‘Mackenzie, when you are finished, can I play with it?’” I gave Brooke 1 or 2 words at a time so she can repeat them after me. Then I turned to Mackenzie and said, “Mackenzie, when you are finished, can Brooke play with it?” She nods yes.

Brooke still wanted it and tried to take it from Mackenzie, I said, “Mackenzie is not finished playing yet. You can play with it when she is finished. Do you want to read a book or listen to music?” Brooke lets it go and goes to play with something else.

Five minutes go by. Brooke is upstairs. Mackenzie climbs up the stairs pulling the stroller behind her saying, “Brooke! Brooke!” She’s done playing with it and she’s ready to pass it on!

We’ve been doing this ever since they’ve started fighting over toys, maybe 4-5 months ago. This is the most effective communication tool I’ve experienced with toddlers. Speak their language and toddlers can be so reasonable it would surprise you. The next time Brooke is playing with something, she knows she will receive the same courtesy: she gets to play with the toy to her heart’s content and no one else can play with it till she is done. When a child knows this, she will have all the patience in the world to wait her turn.

Reader Comments (2)

  1. Hello Stephanie, I had trouble trying to figure out what to do in this situation. How should I approach this during group play-dates when my child starts getting upset or when the other child wants what she has?

    Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 10:32 pm | Debbie
  2. Hi Debbie,

    In my experience, if I do not know the child or mother, I wouldn't ask the child to share their toy with my children. However, if my child is playing with something and someone tries to take it out of her hands, I would try to prevent that. I would ask Brooke, "Is it okay if he plays with it after you're done?" And then get down to the other child's level and say, "She will give it to you when she is done, okay?" And then a couple minutes later, if the other child still seems to really want it, ask Brooke, "Are you done playing?" If she says no or doesn't respond, I would say, "Okay, I understand you're not done. When you are done, can she play with it?" And just wait, let your child decide when she wants to give it to the other child. It may be that she wants to play with that toy through the whole playdate, then respect that. When she clearly doesn't want it anymore, I would say, "Brooke, can he play with it now?" And I have seen this happen more often than not: Brooke will bring the toy over to the child. If this doesn't happen with your child, you can model for your child what it means by walking over and handing it to the child yourself. Your child is learning what it means to play with others, so you are the best model for what she should do!

    Thursday, October 25th, 2012 2:05 pm | Stephanie Woo

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