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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

{Share with me} A dilemma...

"Share everything. Don't take things that aren't yours. Put things back where you found them." -Robert Fulghum, All I Really needed to know, I Learned in Kindergarden

As we prepare ourselves to welcome a new child into our home {as much as you can when you don't know age, gender, or even when!}, we have been doing our best to get our son to understand about sharing his toys, home and parents with a new kiddo. But our efforts to teach our son to share freely seem to be backfiring.

And it has got me thinking...

You know the situation: your child has a toy that he brings to a playdate. Another little one takes it out of their hand and your child gets upset. The other mother gives you that look: are you going to encourage your child to share with mine? Each week, we go to a preschool swim time at our local pool that allows pool toys and it is "understood" that all toys are essentially communal for everyone to use. And, to be honest, the whole "forced" sharing thing going on has me thinking twice about whether I want to make my child share his things.

Let's be clear: I want my children to learn to be generous, charitable and giving. I strongly believe that we would have alot less political disagreements on social issues if we all were personally a little more giving. And, for me, my faith encourages me (and I aim to teach my children) to be giving of our time, talents and resources to help others. But I struggle to accept that teaching our children that they have to share all of their stuff takes away the biggest part of obedience: your attitude. I have seen my son become less and less willing to share since I have made a specific emphasis on it. He seems to hold on tighter to his things out of fear of losing them

{oh, how I relate to this as an adult...}

To add an extra dimension to this issue, as a future parent (temporary or otherwise) of children that have been removed from unhealthy home situations, I want to be particularly understanding that they may be sensitive when it comes to physical goods, including food. I have friends with adopted children that have hoarded food, refused to allow their clothes to be removed to be washed (out of fear they wouldn't get them back) or developed unlikely attachments to odd items around the house that reminded them of things back home. I fear that adopting a policy of sharing everything could potentially hurt a child that is coming from a background of neglect (or simply has been through the tragedy of being removed from the only home they have ever known.) While I recognize that "sharing" is done to teach a good and beneficial character trait, I am afraid that when a child comes from loss, a parent or guardian making a child share, no matter how well-meaning, could be causing more harm than good.

So, I ask you to share with me...what are your thoughts on the subject?

Does your child have certain objects that they are NOT encouraged to share? How do you deal with this when it comes to other people's expectation that we should be teaching our children to share and not be selfish?

If you are a foster and/or adoptive parent who has dealt with issues of loss and attachment, what advice can you give me to a) help future children in my home feel safe and stable and b) how to prepare my son to the transistion?


Miko's Girl said...

Interesting perspective and right on target for a potential foster parent. Perhaps instead of forced sharing, you reward (praise)when your child shares of his own accord. Then, you are rewarding the attitude and the action.

With my girls, I tried to teach empathy at moments when they wouldn't share. "How would you feel if ... didn't share her Polly Pockets with you?" I would also ask for their special loveys so we could put them away during playdates.

Michelle said...

I totally see where you are coming from! As a preschool teacher,I don't encourage sharing as much as taking turns. As in, no, you don't need to share the blocks you are using, but when you are done, let your friend know they are available now.

At home, as a parent, there are things my kids use together (lately, matchbox cars). My daughter (5) knows if she doesn't want her brother (2) to hijack her plans, she needs to go upstairs and shut her door.

It's not difficult to draw boundaries with boy/girls and an age difference, I imagine it's harder with same gender/closer in age siblings!

LauraC said...

We also do the take turns thing that Michelle described. During the worst of the "MINE!!!" phases, we would set a timer so it would be fair.

Another thing we've done is to have particular toys that belong to each boy. The other is not allowed to play with it without permission. They do need some things that are "theirs". And some things NEVER get shared like lovies.

Part of it will have to be responding to the situation as it unfolds. It might surprise you how much empathy little kids can have!

Ms. Can't Be Wrong said...

I was the parent of an only child up until 2 months ago when we received our first foster placement.

Even at six years old he struggled with sharing. Mainly it was a trust issue for him. If another child were to break his toy he was crushed. He started daycare when he was 18 months old. He was decent (not perfect) at sharing community toys. His own things were a different story.

Our biggest challenge was when we hosted our small group from church. After many evenings of a tearful boy we found a solution that worked for us. Every time other children were coming over he was allowed to select the toys he felt particularly fond of that day and put them in the laundry room for the evening. He knew they were safe there and he didn't have to worry about sharing them. It was a lot easier than explaining to other kids why they couldn't play with certain things.

I think you are right on target with loss and attachment. You are prepared (as much as you can be) for a child to come into your home with a unique perspective on "things".

Our first placement was 10 wks old when she came to us. She will be five months old next week. The best advice I can give you is take one day at a time whether it is a good day or a bad day. And be prepared to watch your son rise to the occasion and be an amazing brother!

Heather said...

Thank you all for your input. Emphasizing taking turns vs sharing and reserving "special" toys for the day (if hosting guests) are GREAT ideas!

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