Chanelmama blogger Ouiam Charkani El Hassani explains why we shouldn’t insist that toddlers share.
Have you frowned already and decided that this doesn’t make sense? Great! Now that I have your attention, let’s picture this together: You, at a coffee shop, playing a game on your phone and having some time for yourself. A stranger approaches you, out of nowhere, and snatches YOUR phone away from you! Yes, he takes away your phone, and you’re just watching him do it, without even blinking! How do you feel? Not yet? … OK, let’s upgrade the situation a little bit. There comes a giant person towards you, telling you in a voice full of judgement: “Oh honey, you need to share!” How will that make you feel? Exactly! You will be frustrated and maybe even a little mad! So why do we do this to our little ones? Those little human beings, who are just trying to figure out how this big wide world works? Why do we ask them to share their own belongings with strangers? (At this point everyone but their mums and dads, are strangers to them.) We unconsciously project our own judgments, criticism and ideas into the situation, and we tend to forget that those little ones do not see things the way we do; they don’t understand things the way we do. To them there is only one rule: I like it, then it’s mine!
We make our kids feel something terrible will happen if they don’t share their toys with other kids, which by all means is not the healthiest thing to do. Think with me for a second. If we allow things to be what they really are, X has the toy now and he/she is enjoying it and having fun with it. Once he/she is done he/she will put it down and Y can take his turn and have some fun too. Wouldn’t life be so much easier this way? Wouldn’t we spare ourselves so many tears and so much frustration?
I have a three-year-old son, and by now all our friends know that WE DON’T SHARE! It’s not that he will never learn this very precious quality, it’s just that his little brain cannot fathom right now why he needs to give up something he likes so much so another child can have it, while he just watches. Kids have this extraordinary power to adapt to almost everything, yet they still use you – the parent/caregiver – as a guide to their feelings and emotions, because they are sometimes overwhelming and the child needs to relate to their parents to learn how to react. So if the parent keeps their cool, instead of insisting that sharing is something that must be taught from an early age, and takes a step back to observe, remaining ready to react quickly in case of an emergency, that child might actually surprise you by handing the toy to the other toddler calmly and moving on to something else. Because the parent didn’t send these crazy signals making the child believe something terrible was about to happen, didn’t project their own feelings onto the situation, the result is that the child reacts calmly and peacefully.
Parents are getting too involved nowadays. In every corner and at every hiccup, they are ready to interfere and solve the problem. While, in my view, what they really need to do is to stop feeling responsible for making this kind of interaction work and instead focus on just BEING THERE, and being open. As parents, we need to know that children will get frustrated at times, they will scream and cry, and that’s OK. In fact it is healthy and beneficial and it shouldn’t intimidate us. While establishing boundaries is vital in raising healthy, happy children, it is very important to know when to step in and when to step back.
Ouiam blogs as Chanelmama.