We, as parents so desperately want our children to share. Perhaps it comes from an insecurity or a cultural norm. But our approach often isn’t hugely helpful for a toddler in a developmental age where they are probably (hopefully) going to be as egocentric as they will ever be. It is expected.
Yet we hold ‘sharing’ in such high regards. I was speaking to a friend the other day who shared the idea that if we were reading the news paper or a book and someone came up and wanted to read it, would be give it to them straight away? Unlikely.
We can give our children the same opportunity, the same opportunity by saying ‘not yet’. It is okay to empower your child in this way. They don’t have to share straight away, in fact it is a pretty unreasonable request. And often in these moments parents will actually ‘snatch’ the toy off the child to give in to another child, in the name of sharing. Of course the intention is positive but just take a moment to see what that might look from the child’s eyes.
“Not yet” is such a powerful tool. We have been encouraging our 20 month year old to say “not yet” and to practice hearing “not yet” (often from us as parents). In situations involving peers, I will then tell the waiting child (so that the playing child can also hear) that “he will give to to you when he is finished”. More often than not when the playing child is given control of the situation they will be finished within a minutes, sometimes it is literally seconds before they hand it over. With no fuss! In moments where it might take a bit longer, I’ll brainstorm with the waiting child what we can do while we are waiting. Which is supporting them in learning a very important life skill, delayed gratification. There are other ways to support children in this way, you might have other words or phrases that do the same thing.
As with anything, this isn’t a foolproof guarunteed approach but it will teach both the player and the waiter far more skills than an adult taking toys and distributing them as they see fit.