Friday, October 26, 2012

Inspiring Great Character Part IV: On Sharing

Back from computer troubles and ready to blog!

Every now and then (not often) a moment comes along that makes you think that maybe, just maybe, you are doing something right as a parent. 
Recently, I had one of those moments.

We were at the park with some friends. Man-Cub had insisted on bringing his pirate hat and sword. As the park filled up with many children that we did not know, many of them much younger, I contemplated taking the sword as a preventative measure. I mean, I didn't want to be that mom, the one that let her kid bring a semi-lethal weapon to the playground, resulting in the injury of another kid. I probably would have, but I got a little distracted with the Girl-Child, and before I know it, I am being approached by another mother.
"Are you Noah's mom?"

Uh-oh, this is it. Time to handle the my-child-whacked-your-child-with-a-plastic-sword-when-I-wasn't-looking situation.

"I just wanted to let you know that he is really good at sharing!"
I thanked her and praised him, but on the inside I have to admit that I was surprised. Sure enough, Man-Cub was playing happily while the other kid ran around with his sword.
Commence the patting-self-on-back.

The whole thing got me thinking a lot about sharing. I don't remember being taught to share when I was growing up. My brother, sister and I are very close in age. We had a combined playroom and all the toys were just ours. Not yours or mine, but everyone's. Of course we had our fair share of squabbles ("I had that first!!") but all in all, we were decent at sharing. I do remember one rule, which applied to Christmas and birthdays; You got your new toys for 3 days without being forced to share, but after that special 3 days they were fair game. The thing is, when you are used to playing with your siblings all the time, it is pretty boring to play with your stuff alone. I cannot remember a single time when we lasted the whole 3 days without sharing. My parents were sneaky like that :)

Here are a few of the things I do to encourage sharing. Do they always work? No way. But, like all character education, it is a work in progress!

  • Make sharing a fun idea, not a tedious command! This might go something like "Man-Cub, your friend Johnny is coming over to play! Won't that be fun? Playing with our friends is so much more fun when we share and take turns!"
  • Play to their emotions. "Man-Cub, lets think about what it would feel like if your sister played with her toys all day and never let you have a turn. Would that make you sad? Angry? Would it be very much fun? We don't want to make other people feel that way either, and that is why we share, to show others love."
  • Give them structured opportunities to share. I will set a timer and let my child know that he has 5 minutes to play with the prized toy. After that time is up, the toy is passed to the waiting sibling/cousin/friend. Setting a timer works better than just watching the clock, because my child seems to feel that the timer is more reliable than his forgetful mother.
  • If all else fails, sing a Mary Poppins-esque song. Up until a certain age, children respond really well to directives given to them in sing-song. (After about 1st grade they will just laugh at you or look at you like you have 2 heads). I once heard a children's church director sing this little tune, and have adopted it since. 
(To the tune of Frere Jacques)
I'll take my turn,
You take your turn,
Let's take turns.
Let's take turns.
We can play together,
We can play together,
Let's take turns!
Let's take turns!

Something about this song is mesmerizing to children, and I have changed to words for a variety of sticky situations. Before you know it, the stubborn little one has passed on the object that was the cause of the fight and moved on to happily playing with something else!

I love comments, and I would love to hear your tricks and tools to teach and encourage sharing!

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