How Do I Teach My Child What It Means to Share?
School has been in session for several weeks, and you are already beginning to see the hopefully positive impact that it is having on your young child. New vocabulary and new patterns of play are just some of what you are witnessing as your child is exposed to other children, new routines and expectations, and the new adults in their nursery school environment.
While you may be concerned about academic milestones and the cognitive and intellectual development unfolding, (as you should be) there is another equally important realm that is being addressed daily. Your child’s social and emotional development will be at the core of a quality early childhood’s program. Ask any nursery school teacher what’s the "name of the game?" and they will tell you that socialization is what it’s all about!
I spent much time this summer in parks and on beaches with my 2-year-old granddaughter. Like puppies, toddlers create an instant connection with others who have toddlers in tow. Inevitably the subject turned to playgroups and nursery schools, and once I divulged my background with early childhood education the questions began!
The most common question related to "sharing" and a parent's concern that their two or three-year-old was still struggling with that concept. After lots of reassurance that their child sounded very typical and that learning to share and take turns, is one of the main goals of nursery school, I tried to offer some simple suggestions.
First of all, understand that a child's grasp of the meaning of the word share, is limited. Instead of repeating the words to them that they need “to share", try to give them concrete examples of how sharing takes place in your family. In other words, you really need to spell it out. You can't assume your otherwise bright, capable and articulate child will completely understand the concept and have the wherewithal to override their impulse to take what they want when they want it.
True, some children are more sensitive to the needs of others by temperament or are just less active in their pursuit of what they want. However, for most children, they need to see and learn the lessons of fairness and altruism in action.
There are several ways that that can be accomplished. Model the behavior that you are trying to teach. Point out times when you are taking turns with a family member or friend. Make sure to let your child know when you are contributing food or beverages to a social gathering. Let them in on acts of charitable giving, whether dropping off clothing at a collection bin or donating to hurricane relief. Tell them when a friend or family member shares with you, i.e., extra zucchini from their garden or that tool you need to repair the broken bench. I even go so far as announcing that "I love to share and that I love when someone shares with me"!
Secondly, read picture books about sharing. The classic The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister, is one of my personal favorites, but there are countless additions to the theme. Ask at your local bookstore or library for suggestions.
Finally, celebrate others, whether at the holidays, Mother's or Father's day, someone's birthday or just because you are thinking about them. These are perfect opportunities to demonstrate giving or sharing, and it certainly doesn't have to mean a trip to the store. It could simply mean a drawing or a card with a loving message.
These simple gestures go a long way to reinforce the idea espoused by the golden rule to treat others as you would like to be treated. In words and actions that your child will understand, you will be giving your child the gift of learning how to get along with others, in school and in the world.