Sharing. We share so many things in life: food, clothes, a favorite book, our time. And we ask the same of our children. At school, this past month was full of opportunities to share with others; birthday celebrations, Friendship Day, new lessons. It was busy.
From an early age, as a society, we tend to push our children into sharing before they even know what sharing means. Before the age of two and a half, children are developmentally very self-absorbed beings. They parallel play, they think that whatever they touch or are using is automatically “mine,” and they crave your attention to be solely on them. It isn’t until around the age of two and a half that they can even begin to understand the concept of sharing.
As a parent, it’s very difficult not to push your child into sharing. We want our children to be good, caring people and we know that by sharing, a person is considered ‘good.’ If we try to understand it from the perspective of the child, it would be like you getting a really great, super awesome new camera and someone forcing you to give it to another person. You might think first, “Hey! I wasn’t done with that yet.” And then follow it up with, “That’s mine!” It just doesn’t seem fair and you would be upset not only with the person you had to give the super awesome camera to, but also with the person who made you give the super awesome camera away. As an adult, you might finish the train of thought with, “Okay. I guess I can share it for a little while because they’ll give it back when they’re done.” But it’s not like that for a young child. They aren’t developmentally capable of understanding why they had to give up the super awesome camera when they were using it, and think that if it gets taken from them then they won’t ever see it again.
Just like we have to teach and show our children how to eat with a spoon, drink from a cup, or write their names, it’s important for them to learn how to share something. In class, we encourage the children to ask their friends if they can work with them (sharing a lesson/materials). Once asked, the child using the materials has a choice to say yes or no, to decide if he is ready to share. We then acknowledge and respect that child and his choice. It’s important that we also encourage the children to ask each other for hugs or to hold hands (sharing personal space) so that they do not feel invaded. Simple skills such as asking a question and respecting the answer are first steps for children to intrinsically want to begin to share with their friends.
It’s something magical when you see a friend let another friend build with blocks together, or peel a clementine with the specific thought to share the pieces with all of her friends.
~Ms. Melanie and Ms. Abby