Adventures in Attachment Parenting: Can I Borrow Your Car? by Allison Silver
At least once a week I over hear an adult telling a young child that they need to share. This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Perhaps I am more sensitive to it because of my background in early childhood education but it just bugs me. First off children don’t learn the concept of sharing until six years old. So pushing the concept of sharing onto a child younger then age six is a mute point. Why age six? Until children are six years old they are very egocentric and don’t really see anyone else’s needs or wants outside of their own. But by seven or eight years old children typically do develop an understanding that others have needs and an overall sense of fairness. And you know what? They develop this sense of fairness without anyone telling them that they need to share.
But you might be thinking, “Allison we live in a society where people must share.” But do we really? As adults do we share? You might be thinking of course we do. But really think about it for a second. If I came up to you and asked you if I could borrow your car would you let me? How about your iPad? Of course you wouldn’t. You don’t know me. But even if you did know me you most likely still would not let me borrow your car or your iPad. But what if when you told me “no” a third party (maybe your mother) told you to share. How would that make you feel? Pretty pissed off, right? And if you are pissed off you might act out. Yep, that’s how a toddler feels. When we make a toddler share we are making them give up something that is important to them. It might not seem like a big deal to us, it might even seem trivial, but at that moment it’s their most prized possession. I wouldn’t expect you to part with your prized possession so why would I expect a toddler to?
Here’s another example for you. Imagine you are at work drinking coffee from your favorite mug. It kinda gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, right? Your drinking your coffee and a coworker comes up to you and says, “I want that cup.” Would you give it to them? No! It’s your cup and your using it. You might say, “He’ll no!” Or you might say, “You can’t have it right now because I’m using it but maybe when I’m done you can use it.” Either answer would be an appropriate response but which response would you rather teach your child?
As parents we get so caught up in pleasing everyone. But teaching our children to say no is just as important as them learning to share. It’s ok for our child to tell another child no. Developing boundaries and standing up for ourselves is a very important skill to learn especially when children start school. It’s ok for a child to say, “No, you can’t have my toy right now.” As parents we should be teaching them how to say no. But as parents we get so worried. We worry about our child hurting another child’s feelings, we worry how another parent will react, and mostly we worry about what other parents will think of us if we don’t step in and make our child share.
You might be thinking, “Ok then Allison what should we do Instead?” Instead of telling your child to share why not ask them if they are finished? If they say, “No.” Then you can say, “Ok. When you are finished with it then so and so can have a turn. ” You can then turn to the other child and say,”Charley isn’t finished with the toy yet but when she is you can have a turn.” By doing this you are acknowledging that your child isn’t finished yet but you are also acknowledging the other child’s request as well. And you are also modeling an appropriate way to say no. One of the best tools we can use to teach our children is modeling. Think about it do we model sharing? Do we practice sharing with our spouses or partners? Do we model appropriate ways to say no? We are our children’s best teachers. If we want them to practice what we are preaching then we better make sure we are practicing it to.
The next time you are at the sand box and you over hear another parent telling their child to share. Just look up and smile and think to yourself, “Can I borrow your car?”