Sharing is overrated, and I’m done trying to prove otherwise. I am so done with setting timers and negotiating who’s had the green shovel for how long and who gets it next, who’s had how many turns on the good swing and who’s next in line… I’m done with all of it. I say we band together as the leaders of our little people and let them figure it out themselves.
Letting kids figure it out is a really valuable lesson that gives them a gift of independence. That is to say, it allows them to solve their problems on their own, in our presence (like when they’re in the family room) or in our absence (like when they’re across the playground or out at recess). I am not suggesting we throw them at each other, lock the door, and let them figure it out “Gladiator style,” but rather am suggesting we just take a step back. I often think we are so quick to intervene to appease other parents and stop them from negatively judging our own parenting.
As parents, we can give our kids the tools they need to get started in this endeavour: we can give them the language to use, e.g. “When you’re finished with the green shovel, I’d like a turn.” “I’d like to use that swing — can I have a turn next?” This is language we can model for them from a very early age, even as non-verbal toddlers who still have an immense capacity for receptive language.
Phrases like that give them the skills they need to express themselves, and then make compromises with their friends as necessary. It teaches them how to be in a relationship essentially.
Think of your own relationships: if you want to borrow a friend’s cell phone, you wouldn’t just expect to have it when you’re ready; you would ask politely and wait till he’s finished. You’d also respect his answer of “no” if that were the case. This is what is considered normal human behaviour, and is absolutely the place we want our kids to arrive at down the road.
So, we have to start helping them now.
As any parent of any child can tell you, kids don’t need any more reasons to come and interrupt your grown-up conversations; directing them back to solving the problem with their friends is quite empowering, builds mature and effective communication skills, and allows you to visit with your friends and discuss the ins and outs of Orange is the New Black season two finale.
Always stepping in and telling Timmy “it’s been long enough” isn’t showing anyone anything, except that if you get fussy enough, you’ll eventually get your way. Likewise, it teaches them that they don’t need to listen to their internal cues, but rather to someone else’s sole instruction. Children, just like adults, need time to follow through on their activity. When their little internal clock exhales with “Ok. I’m done there,” they will set aside whatever it is they’ve been playing with or working at. Allowing them to do so enables your child to develop a much better level of concentration, and ultimately her level of focus and inner peace.
So, when you see me with my kids at the park this summer and my little ones invariably try to take your child’s Dora bucket, please do not step in. Our kids will work it out, I will not judge you for not insisting that your kids share with mine, and we can get caught up on our common Netflix interests.