By Amita Bhardwaj
It was time for a 15-year high school reunion and Megha was more worried than excited. Everyone had decided to introduce their families to each other and Megha was sure that her preschooler would not just refuse to share anything with other kids, he would also scream if someone as much as touched his things. The sheer thought of how embarrassed she would feel led Megha to somehow excuse herself from the get-together.
Does that sound like a familiar experience? There are enough and more parents who worry about the fact that their preschoolers do not want to share things. Psychologists though go on to say that there isn’t anything abnormal about this. Typically, children understand the concept of sharing only by the age of three. However, for them to be prepared to share things, could take far longer. Even if children know that they need to share things or that their turn to play with a toy will come soon, they do tend to get upset when they cannot have their way immediately. Some amount of encouragement and appreciation however can go a long way in inculcating the habit of sharing. Here’s how:
First things first, getting angry at the child and resorting to yelling will not take you far. Not just does it put the child in fight or flight mode where he or she is unable to understand and act, if the child does land up sharing, it is only on account of the fear of being yelled at.
Lessons on sharing need to start young. In fact, when the child learns to hold on to objects; passing the object between the child and yourself is the first lesson in sharing that you could teach. As they grow up, teaching them to take turns can be yet another lesson in sharing. Whether it is the swing at the park or simply setting a timer when the child needs to hand over the toy to the other child, these small lessons can go a long way in inculcating the spirit of sharing.
Be a role model
Telling a child what to do may not get as good results as opposed to showing him or her what to do. Seeing you indulge in small acts of sharing in day-to-day life will reinforce the idea of sharing far more than anything else will. Story time can yet be another coachable moment where through stories you point out how a certain character was really kind as he shared things with others.
Prepare the child
Speaking to the child ahead of a play date or when the child is beginning preschool and preparing them to share their things, allows the child to know what to expect. Do remember though that it’s okay if there is a favourite toy or two that the child isn’t comfortable sharing and would rather have all to himself. In such cases, advise them to put away such toys before they have company.
Appreciate the child
When the child does share his toys, a little bit of appreciation can go a long way. The idea isn’t to reward the child with material things as that very often may become the sole reason for sharing. Instead, allow them to see how happy they have made the other child by their act of sharing. Soon enough, others’ happiness will start to matter to them.
Despite all the best practices though, there would be occasions when the child does not want to share his belongings. Reminding the child of how he would feel if he didn’t have a turn at his favourite toy, could help them understand different points of view.
Above everything, though, remind yourself to be realistic when it comes to a preschooler’s ability to share. Remember that they are only learning to understand other people’s feelings and that the habit of sharing will develop over a period of time.
Labelling the child as being “selfish” when he decides not to share, will only lead to resentment. Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, will lead the child to realise that it is actually more fun to share things with others rather than keep it all to oneself. Now that realisation is something that will stand the child in good stead!
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare.)