why toddlers don’t share

It seems to be in speech development that Ari, who’s now 3, is lagging behind. Lately there’s been tremendous improvement in how he communicates what he feels and what he wants. But as for holding conversations, whether with other children or with adults, he has not mastered such skill just yet.

This situation is not something we would consider as a development delay. The fact that he is able to communicate whatever it is that he wants us to know is enough to avoid the buildup of frustration of not being understood or of being misunderstood–two separate issues but both very important for a child.

Recently however, Ari seems to be in a stage when he knows what he wants and knows what is his. He now has his own pillow, his own seat in the dining table, his own toys–to some extent an understanding of possession and ownership. Inevitably, there has been a lot of fighting over toys lately. Sibling fights that arise from 1) the older sibling wanting to play with his own toys; 2) the younger sibling wanting to play with his elder sibling; and 3) the younger sibling pretending to be like his elder sibling playing with his own toys. In a day we encounter such situations, twice, thrice, sometimes I lose count. And all the time they end up with crying or some form of deception by an adult.

This is a struggle for me as a parent because I do not want to resort to deceiving my children in order to avoid tantrums. I want to be able to make them understand that sharing is important especially for brothers and family members. But every time I try to, Ari just cries his guts out.

And then I consulted some parenting articles and realized that what I had been doing all along was wrong. Apparently, in order to teach a child the value of sharing, it’s actually helpful to teach them the importance of NOT sharing. Do I see some eyes rolling?

Take this case for example. Ari plays with a toy and then Uri wants to play with the same toy. Uri cries because Ari won’t let him. Then I plead to Ari to let Uri borrow his toy. Ari doesn’t want to so Uri cries. So I get the toy from Ari and give it to Uri, Uri stops crying but Ari starts crying. And then I give Ari a tongue-lashing trying to explain as best I could why he should share his toy, but he doesn’t listen and only stops crying when I distract him with another activity.

A litany of my mistakes:

1. I should never pry a toy out of my child’s hands. I thought I was teaching Ari to share but I was actually teaching him to grab a toy out of another child’s hands.

2. I try to teach them to take turns when they have not fully grasped the concept of time or sequence.

3. I force Ari to share with his little brother without realizing the importance of him having his own space, his own toys and his own time to play. As much as I want to teach them the value of sharing, I should also teach them respect, for each other’s belongings, each other’s time and space.

I know my mistakes now, but I’m still not quite confident that I will be able to impart to them the life skills that I want them to learn. But I’ll try and I’ll keep trying. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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One thought on “why toddlers don’t share

  1. thanks for sharing. so how do we teach our kids to share especially on items that are too impractical to buy for each of them?

    my husband and his younger brother used to be selfish to each other especially on toys and food. although the situation changed when they matured, the selfishness manifests in other (non-material) aspects. my husband, who has improved a lot since we got together, admits learning so much from me. i wish my kid will not have to wait for a wife to teach him the value of being generous and considerate. =)

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