November 24, 2015

Sharing is Caring.


I remember my first encounter with the “sharing” issue: I brought my young son to the community pool. I’d bought him several new pool toys with plastic cups and bowls from the dollar store to play with in the water. I bought waterproof labels with his name on them and attached them to every belonging, toy and plastic cup. He was 18 months old. Within the first 20 minutes, all of the toys we brought had been swiped or otherwise apprehended by other children in the toddler zone. I wanted to teach him sharing, but at the same time, I could understand his frustration. Those toys literally had his name written on them and now he had nothing to play with at all. I was soon facing a meltdown and we left the pool early, sans toys.

One important principle of early childhood education is teaching young children how to get along with each other, coexist, learn together and play together. All of this usually requires a strong foundation in sharing. But there is a new movement among parenting groups currently discouraging parents from teaching their children to share and preschools are also starting to take notice.

According to Dr. Laura Markham, author of the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, the conventional approach of what she calls “forced sharing” teaches kids that if they cry loud enough, they will get what they want even if someone else has it.

So, at what point are we as parents supposed to force our children to share, when sometimes that just means giving up something you have just because another child wants it? Kiddie Academy’s Director of Curriculum, Renee Thompson had this to say:

“We strive to meet children at their developmental levels. We do not expect children age 3 and under to have the social/emotional maturity to be able to ‘share’ in the adult sense of the word. Children at this stage are naturally ego-centric, and play beside peers, not necessarily with peers.

In our younger classrooms, we advise teachers to have many of the same or similar toys on hand. (This encourages young children to advocate for themselves and not always be waiting for someone to tell them their time is up. Children play more freely and can lose themselves in play, which promotes learning.)

Teachers assist children by modeling language and helping children verbalize their feelings and suggesting alternative solutions when upset with a peer over sharing or taking turns.

Teachers are not prompted to observe social behaviors such as sharing and taking turns until a child is in one of our 4-year-old programs. In these preschool classrooms, we do not rotate children through centers for specified periods of time, rather children may choose which center to play in and which materials to use.

Teachers will moderate disputes and facilitate the children in recognizing others’ feelings and guiding the children to come up with solutions to problems. (This supports the idea of giving children the right tools to handle a ‘sharing’ situation, including helping children take notice when another child would like a turn and ensuring that child gets a turn.)”

It’s kind of comforting to know that with all lessons – even sharing – there is more than one way to teach it. How do you feel about the concept of sharing where your children are concerned?

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