Thursday, September 23, 2010

Learning to share

The little one pushes and shoves. She hits her sister when she wants a toy. She screams when she wants to play, too. She is just two years old. Her four year old sister has always been more mellow, even seems patient, and at times long-suffering, putting up with her sibling's pushy-ness. She has lately been starting to scream in pain or fear or frustration sometimes even before the expected "attacks" of her sister. Life with these two, from morning to bedtime is overwhelming. Mom thinks, "what have I done wrong? Where did these two come from?" How can I ever get some peace?" There is always some kind of hassle to mediate. It never stops.

First, this scenario is very "normal" and typical for many households. The youngest doesn't have all her verbal and social skills yet, and the oldest has learned how to deal with these situations. What varies most from family to family is the adult reaction. Even though it seems impossible to manage in the moment, it is important to respond to both children calmly. Any time we bring our own charged reaction, we are modeling just what we want the girls to avoid. We want them to be more loving toward each other, we need to be loving ourselves. Loving doesn't mean that we allow people to walk all over us and do what they will. But our response can be kind and firm at the same time.

The youngest needs to be taught to use words and ask before grabbing. "Be gentle with sister. Ask sister - 'toy, please.'" And the oldest needs to be taught about sharing. If she doesn't want to share a very special toy or the thing she is working on right this minute, she can find something to offer her sister in trade. Children need many, many demonstrations and reminders before it clicks and they learn to say or do the acceptable behavior before the inappropriate one immerges.

Sharing doesn't come easy for most children, and to be honest, for us adults either. We have some special things that we don't want to share either. There will be many opportunities to practice and model this and other social behaviors. Our children are born with a huge reservoir of potential. The skills they learn are at least partly dependent upon the skills we demonstrate. What are they seeing us do or hearing us say?

1 comment:

JANE E KIRN said...

I agree that sharing is a learned demonstrated skill. I never realized this until your post. I think most children will follow the leads of their parents as they grow up. But for some it comes within their hearts, and who they are. For example an only child (in my experiences) has more difficulty giving and sharing to an extent. Or a child that grows up with experience seeing and only child will soon come to their own conclusions.
I know one young man that is the most giving of his time and energy, because he saw father not able to do this as easily. Or could this be genetics. On his mothers side all of her family shared, gave, offered to others. He was not around this part of the family to see that, but yet he is that way with his family. Thanks for the reminder of sharing. A great subject for the season.