Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alternative to Forced Sharing that Respects Your Child

I was in our church nursery today and decided to try something. Two kids were having a disagreement about who should get to play with a key. First of all, I heard them out, and they had totally valid concerns. See, the key went to the car that Kid A was riding, so she felt she needed the key to drive. Kid B felt he should get to play with the key because he had it first. They both wanted me to step in and say they should get the key. Kid A asked me to "make him share."

And then maybe it was because I was tired and didn't feel like playing referee, but my answer surprised them both.


I said, "To be honest, I don't really believe in making someone share. You probably don't hear a lot of grownups say that, do you?"

They both blinked at me.

I blinked back. Because, really, I didn't know how this was going to go. I've been playing the sharing game because that's what you do because that's what all the parents do because you don't want your kid to be the entitled jerk who won't share.

As much as I think the word "entitlement" gets thrown around a little too much when we talk about young generations, let's think about this for a minute. Who is likely to feel more entitled in a forced sharing scenario? The kid who is being forced to share or the kid who gets the toy that another kid has for...what reason again? Oh, so your kid will learn to share. Except, does forced sharing actually teach anything? Or does it just cause frustration and resentment between friends and between child and parent? Because really, when we force sharing, aren't we actually showing our child that the other child's wants are more important than theirs?

These were my thoughts during all the blinking going on between the nursery kids and me.


I broke the bewildered silence first. "Okay, I'm not going to make him share. When he's done playing with it, you can have it. While you're waiting, you can play."

Kid B bounced away with the key. Kid A hung her head. I sympathized. "You feel sad that you don't get the key. I understand."

Then I stepped back to watch how this would play out because I had no idea. Kid B started playing with another toy and was only holding the key in his hand, not playing with it. Kid A pointed this out. So then I asked Kid B if he could let Kid A have the key since he wasn't actually playing with it. I don't know if that was the right move or not, but it worked out. He agreed and handed over the key.

And then he realized he wanted it back. So he asked Kid A if he could play with it again. She said he could when she was done. Kid B said, "I'm mad."

"You're mad." I said. You know, validating.

"Yeah, I'm mad because I want to play with it but I have to wait."

I said, "I glad you told us how you feel. I understand. I get mad sometimes too. It helps to say when you're mad, doesn't it."

"Yeah." And then he kept playing.

And not even five minutes later, Kid A gave Kid B the key. And that was the end.

So let's recap the highlights.
-Emotions were named and validated with both kids. Emotional intelligence is important.
-They learned to hear and value each other.
-We talked out solutions, giving them the opportunity to think critically and creatively.
-They learned how to wait. Super important in a culture full of instant gratification.

I couldn't believe how well it went! Probably because, like I said, I've been playing the sharing game. And in the sharing game, kids just get frustrated and parents are constantly playing referee instead of guiding. Forced sharing isn't productive. This alternate approach takes some effort and creativity on everyone's part, but that's what this parenting gig takes, right? Just wait your turn to try this out.

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Related post: This is What Gentle Parenting Shows My Child

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