Monday, February 25, 2008

Share or take turns?

On four days in a row last week, Dan played with little buddies ranging in age from a month older than him to 2 years old. Hanging out with children in various stages of toddlerhood is very instructive.

Toddlers are greedy, impatient little neanderthals. If they see it, they want it, especially if someone else has it. Consequently, I've heard the word "share" quite often lately. One child has a toy, the other wants to play with it. Shrieks ensue. "Share," is the inevitable response.

But why? (You knew that was coming. I question everything.) And more importantly, how? Sharing seems to be a very misunderstood concept. Share means to divide something equally or give out a portion. What does "give" mean? It means to make a gift. What's a "gift"? It's something given to another in a show of friendship or affection.

Let me tell you, there is no affection among toddlers locking horns over that one toy in a sea of amusements. And how exactly do you apportion a single object as the definition suggests? It's like King Solomon splitting the baby.

On Friday morning, I worked at Parents Morning Out. I watched a pair of 3-year-old girls argued over two halves of a plastic Easter egg. One wanted to play with both parts of the egg. The other wanted to keep her half. One woman urged them to share. The girls ignored her and kept talking about the egg. I just watched and waited. The one girl kept asking the other if she was done with the egg yet. Eventually, the other girl was done and the first girl scooped up the other half of the egg. Problem solved. Turns out, they didn't need to share. One just needed to wait her turn, which seems a more important life lesson than trying to force an action that should be born of affection and friendship.

Ever heard the saying, "Take the gift in the spirit in which it is given"? Sharing is not a selfless, feel-good act when force or guilt is behind it. So what happens when you force a child to share? They resent having to share something they are enjoying and had first. And thus the spirit in which the object is "given" is full of resentment.

No thanks. I'll just wait my turn and teach my son to do the same.

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