Helping Children to Share
When children want something, their feelings are often passionate. They can be gripped by a desire so strong that no other option will do. Every cell in their bodies is organized to communicate that having the blue shovel or the green balloon is the key to their happiness--a yellow shovel or a red balloon simply won't do! But as any parent who has tried to enforce sharing knows, taking turns at those moments is far easier said than done!
In this article, we'll look at why every child has at least some difficulties sharing, and we'll suggest a policy that you can establish that will move your child toward being able to share more of the time.
Children love to share
Children actually love to share. When they're babies, they like to give us things, and have us give those things back. When they're a bit older, they like to take the plate of cookies and offer one to each person in the room. When older still, they love the games that include everyone in the family. And when they are relaxed and feeling secure, children even love to see someone else enjoy their favorite things.
To be able to share, a child needs to feel a strong sense of connection--he needs to feel loved and warmly accepted. When he feels close and emotionally safe, he's not so desperate for the blue shovel or the green balloon. He can wait for a turn. He has what he really needs--a sense of connection buoys him through little disappointments.
What children really want and need
Sharing goes hand in glove with being relaxed and feeling loved. Children have a few vital needs, and when these needs are filled, they can relax. They feel secure enough to play flexibly and respond thoughtfully to the needs and wishes of others. We all know that children need good food, good sleep, fresh air, room to play safely, and access to at least one or two people who are committed to their well-being. Parents, warmth, food, safety. These are the most basic needs.
But in order to relax and thrive, children need a few more vital things. Blue shovels and green balloons aren't on this list! My list of what a child needs to thrive goes something like this:
- The daily opportunity to connect and be relaxed with someone who cares,
- Emotional warmth and welcome,
- Respect for his intelligence,
- Time for play,
- Lots of affection,
- Frequent opportunities to laugh together with others,
- Frequent opportunity to cry in the shelter of someone's arms when hurt feelings arise,
- Information about what is happening and why, and
- Limits, enforced without violence, that promote safety and respect.
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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