Years ago my husband and I attended a parenting class and one thing that stands out in my mind from that course was something very simplistic that the trainer said. He asked the question, “If your kid doesn’t like broccoli, what should you do?”
I thought for a minute while he paused and the first thought that came to me was, do my kids even like broccoli? Hmmmmm.
Then in a loud voice the trainer enthusiastically said, “You should feed him MORE broccoli, that’s what!”
The reason this lesson stands out in my mind so clearly years later is because I have used it over and over in making my parenting decisions. I have gone back and pondered it again and again. Why? This one simple concept has become a principle to me in my parenting skills.
If your child doesn’t want to do something, at times, it is appropriate to make him do it. Those of you that know me personally know that I strive to allow my children to make decisions for themselves and at times they make wrong and unwise choices. The goal is to have them learn from those poor choices. I don’t believe in forcing them to do things such as eating all of their dinner, wearing their hair a certain way or perhaps wearing shoes they hate. But, you have to balance things and encourage your children to grow emotionally and behaviorally to become good citizens too. You often have to do that by exposing them and influencing them to attempt new things that they may not want to do. In other words, there are always things in life that we must do, even if we don’t want to. We have to go to work. We have to go to school. We have to obey the laws of the land.
Now, lets apply this to getting your children to share with others. If you have a child that will not share their toys and you indulge that behavior by allowing it, well, subliminally, you are telling the child that you agree with him and he really doesn’t have to share his toys. Sharing is something that a child must be taught by you, the parent. There is a healthy way to teach your child to share and you might be surprised to know that I don’t think you should always make your child share with others. There is a step-by-step process that you can follow to get your child to share.
The first step is awareness.
Are you aware of what is going on with your child’s playmates? As the adult, make yourself aware of what is going on when playmates come around. Listen to them playing. Your child may not want to share for fear of losing a favorite toy or for fear that his favorite toy will get broken or scribbled on. Pay attention and see if your child has a friend that is too wild with toys and often breaks them, or maybe a playmate tends to “accidentally” take things home with him and not bring them back, or maybe they even have a tendency to color on toys? If this is the case, then you shouldn’t make your child share with a playmate like that! You may even encourage your child to put his favorite toys up when that particular playmate comes over. Or perhaps you will want to reevaluate who your child is playing with!
The next step would be to think of yourself.
If you have an irresponsible friend that borrows your lawn tools and leaves them out in the yard to get ruined, you probably don’t want to loan him anything do you? This is usually the same friend that is constantly wanting to borrow many of your items, probably because he ruined his own already, right? Perhaps you have a friend or family member that doesn’t return things when they borrow them or maybe they return them damaged, dirty or in poor working condition. Again, who wants to loan something to someone like that? I suspect not you and I know, not me! So don’t make your child do that with his items either!
On the other hand, if you have a friend that borrows things and returns them in a timely manner, in the condition in which you leant them, well then you are more likely to “share” your things with this person, right? Explain this concept to your child using simple words. Ask your child if he thinks the playmate takes good care of his or her toys. Talk to them and get them thinking about it. If the playmate is too rough, don’t make your child share with him.
The next step is listening….to yourself!
After you have made yourself aware of the playmates behavior, the next thing is to use words that children understand. When an adult uses the word “share” in terms of food, the child sees you rip a cookie in half and give some to someone else. Whoa! Next, you pick up the child’s doll and say, I want you to “share” your doll with your friend. Yikes! The kid half expects you to rip the doll’s arms off. Adults sometimes don’t realize the power of their words on a child. Listen to yourself!
What I would suggest is for you to use the word “share” only when you are dealing with food because that is really what you are asking your child to do, give a little of what they have to someone else.
When you are dealing with toys and objects you might say, “let’s allow your friend have a turn playing with your toy now, okay?”. This is more understandable to the child and they will not envision you ripping their toy in half.
After saying everything just right, you may still find that you have a child that won’t share or take turns! What then? Well, that is when I go back to the phrase, “if they don’t like broccoli, feed them more broccoli!” In other words, make them share. How can you make them? Simple, you can do this by saying, “you must take turns with your toys and things and if you don’t, mommy or daddy will take the toy and put it away from you until you decide to give others a turn playing with it.” Wow. You are thinking. That is tough, right? It may sound tough but anything that your child is so attached to that they won’t allow anyone else near it, is too much of an attachment. It is an attitude of total selfishness and you need to discourage it.
You don’t need to torture the child and keep threatening to take the toy. (Click here to read about threatening repeating). Just do it! Just like the Nike commercial says. Do it very logically and calmly after telling the child ONE time only. If the child has a fit and asks where the toys is, explain to them that it is safe and that you have put it away until they were willing to allow others a turn with it. Do not give in, no matter what! When the child agrees to allow others a turn, give the item back to him. Empower your child with control of the timeframe in which he gets the item back. Each child is different and one child might decide to share immediately and another child will decide to take turns only after a week.
My final words to you are this…remember, being a parent is challenging work! Stay focused on your parenting plan, turn on the creative portion of your brain and then….outsmart them! It is the only way!