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Critique this scenario, please

post #1 of 175
Thread Starter 
At the grocery store today, DS (4) got a piece of cheese from the deli lady. DD (1.5) wanted some too. I guess I could have asked for another piece, but I didn't. It was a pretty big piece. So I said to DS, "Maddie wants some cheese." I think at first he said he didn't want to give her some, and I said something along the lines of, "You have a huge piece, just give her some." So he broke off a teeny tiny piece and gave it to DD. I told him that wasn't enough, he had to give her some more. So he broke off another teeny tiny piece. "Cole," I said, "just give her a decent piece of cheese! How would you feel if Maddie had a giant piece of cheese and only gave you a tiny bit?" He said he wouldn't like it. "Well, Maddie doesn't either!" Still he refused to share the cheese, so I reached over and tore a piece off it and gave it to DD. I made sure not to take a lot, his piece was still bigger. He started to freak out and I said "Uh uh! You do not throw a fit because you have to share with your sister! You are being selfish! In this family we share what we have with one another!" I wasn't yelling, but I was using a stern tone of voice. He quieted down and seemed to get over it quickly.

So. Clearly not the most GD response. : The obvious solution was in the beginning, to get DD her own cheese. At the time I felt like that would have been rude, and that was why I didn't, but in hindsight I should have. But, let's imagine for a minute that wasn't an option. What do you do when sibs refuse to share, say, a bottle of water when they're both thirsty on a hot day? And there's only one bottle of water?

Thanks for all input.
post #2 of 175
I think you handled it beautifully. How isn't this GD? GD doesn't say that you have to give your child everything he/she wants. You expressed to your son, what you expected and when he was not super generous, you showed him. The taking of the cheese may have been less than gentle (though I would likely have done the same), but expecting more from the counter, could be seen as being greedy.

I just rechecked the alternatives to punishment and found this: (why??? because you expressed what needed to be done and he didn't want to.)
Instead of punishing you went with many of these!

Leave it up to your child.


State your expectations, and get out of the way.

Give specific instructions.

Give a reason.

Offer help.

Give a choice.

Give your child time to agree.

Simply insist.

You stated your expectations, left it up to your child. He didn't share much, so you gave a choice, gave time to agree, gave reasons and finally, helped your child and simply insisted.
post #3 of 175
I think you did ok. sometimes there are situations that arise where because of local, or other outside reason you don't have the time to get things perfect, just find other examples through the course of the day to help ds understand others feelings and sharing. IMHO.
post #4 of 175
I think you did good.
post #5 of 175
I think that you are right that reaching over and tearing the cheese in two yourself was not very respectful, but I also think that he has to accept that part of family is sharing.

I have three girls, and we are just now encountering times where my oldest needs to share with her sisters. She knows that there are several things in the house that she does not have to share (her blanket, her stuffed animal, and her special cup), but we are teaching her that everything else belongs to our family.

In the instance of toys, I use the rule of if we can't share than perhaps we should find a new activity. I think it would've worked well in your case too. "We have one piece of cheese and two hungry mouths! Please share with your sister or we will have to put the cheese away until snacktime later."

If that didn't prompt sharing, then I would've indeed explained that I was going to tear the cheese in half to share with everyone. If that caused a temper flare up, then (personally) I would do what we always do when anger/frustration/whatever happens in a store... try to talk it through and if it doesn't work out for us to be in the store than we leave.
post #6 of 175

ok, I'm taking you up on the "critiquing" part...

Well, I agree with the pp that we can't always get it right and we have to be forgiving of ourselves when that happens. Having said that, there are a few critiques and suggestions I'd like to make.

As parents it is our job to instill values in our children, such as sharing, but wheh we do that through coercion we are teaching them that this is a valid method of "getting one's way." Be polite. Ask nicely. But if that doesn't work, use coercion to get your way. I think that's a troubling message.

I am finding more and more that when I start with empathy with humans of any age the conversation tends to go better, even if I slip in another message later on. Instead of telling your son that he can't throw a tantrum, I would say, "I know it can be really hard to share and I can see that you're upset." Maybe then follow that with something like, "I am going to put the cheese up for a little while since we are having trouble deciding who gets to eat it." If the emotion he is feeling is anger, telling him he can't feel it is just going to make him stuff it or get angrier, essentially escalating the situation.

Finally, the part that was the most upsetting to me was when you told ds that he was selfish. IMO this is shaming. : It is your diagnosis or judgment of his behavior. Expression of our judgments rarely facilitates understanding, although it may get you compliance in the moment.

I realize your son is only 4 but do you think you could have a sort of family meeting where he participated in creating some really basic ground rules for the family? Only do this if you are truly willing to incorporate his contributions. This would give him a chance to feel a part of the rule-making and thus more likely to be agreeable.

Another thought is to approach it right from the start with a clear directive(no choices). "I am going to give Maddie some of your cheese and then you can finish your part." The way you approached it almost seemed like a negotiation. "You have a huge piece, just give her some."

I hope this feedback was helpful. It's not my intention to flame you.
post #7 of 175
This is just my opinion. I don't think the issue is so clearcut that you were wrong in how you handled it.

To my way of thinking, your son received a gift, just as if he had received a birthday present. The lady at the deli counter gave it to HIM. If my DD receives a gift, she is not required to share it. She would be encouraged to do so but would not be required unless it had been stated up front, "this is for you and your sister."

I would focus on dealing with the other child's disappointment, and try to help her through it. Sometimes when the attention is off the first child and they aren't feeling pressured, they become free to witness the other child's disappointment, and may then (sometimes) choose to share out of genuine empathy.

It must be terribly disappointing to be given something then have some of it taken away. I remember an incident in my childhood in which the Jaycee's came around at Halloween time and gave out pumpkins and threw out candy from their wagon, which my little brother collected excitedly and put in a little bag. I had been at sunday school and when I got home I was terribly disappointed hat I had missed out. My parents did not make my brother share with me, but they tried to help me through my disappointment by making a special treat bag of cookies instead. It wasn't the same and I was still disappointed, but it helped to know that they cared about my feelings. My brother didn't turn out to be a selfish miser and is very generous to me and my DD as an adult.
post #8 of 175
I agree with BC (as usual!) I think its clearcut that you should not have taken the cheese from him. I also think that its okay to make mistakes, and will admit that I've done things like that before too! But you know all that.

I would have asked for another peice of cheese.

We go through this exact scenerio all the time, btw. My ten year old will share anything and everything with his little brother, no qualms. In his mind, it must be awful to be left out. He doesn't want to let anyone feel left out or bereft. My six year old son will never ever share anything. Ever. We are consantly saying things like, "Big brother is thirsty, and you have a full water bottle. If you were thirsty, he would share a drink with you. Please share your drink." But we've never come right out and forced the issue.

We do have conversations at non-stressful times about the importance of sharing and being good to people. I think it is sinking in, slowly but surely.

That said, life isn't fair. And there have been plenty of times that I've wanted to keep something good all to myself. In fact -- just last night I had chinese food after the kids were asleep, and I actually *hid* my leftovers so that I wouldn't have to share them today!
post #9 of 175
I thought a few people would chime in with the "but it's a gift" argument. Personally I feel like, if my one kiddo has food and my other kiddo (or someone else in the family) is hungry, we share. I would not hog food all to myself while my child cried and begged for some, and likewise I would expect my child to share what they have with other family members.

I think sometimes this GD worrying about the child's feelings can create selfishness.
post #10 of 175
I don't think you handled the situation badly. There are so many other things you could have done that would have been far worse.

That said, I believe that while sharing is good, having one's own without the requirement of sharing is just as important. It gives a feeling of empowerment.

I would have asked my son to share the cheese. If he had been reluctant, I would have asked for another piece. I might have pointed out that in the future, he might want to think about sharing since it is not always possible to get another piece of cheese and he might want some of hers one day.

I am a little colored by this because I really hated when I was little and my dad would take bites of my food without asking.
post #11 of 175
Originally Posted by famousmockngbrd View Post
What do you do when sibs refuse to share, say, a bottle of water when they're both thirsty on a hot day? And there's only one bottle of water?
In that sort of situation I'd assume the bottle was a *family* bottle and you, as the parent, would be responsible for distributing the contents amoungst the family. You wouldn't say "ds this bottle of water is for you" "now give your sister a drink from your bottle of water."

At dinner, you don't give everyone their own dish--"the salad is mine" "Daddy gets the potatos" "ds you have the water" "dd, this is your chicken"--and then have everyone share, everyone automatically shares because the food belongs to the family and everyone is a member of the family. Once things belong to a specific person, it needs to be that person's *choice* whether to share.

In the cheese situation, if there were no pieces left, I like to think I would have said, "ds, I'm sorry, I didn't realize there wasn't a piece for dd when I gave you that piece, could you please give half to dd?" But really, yes, you should have just gotten her her own piece, given her as much as she's likely to eat and then just had the rest yourself or given more to ds.
post #12 of 175
In our home, the goal is meeting everyone's underlying needs, not "equal treatment" or some subjective construct of "fair". When one feels a sense of abundance, the willingness to share doesn't need to be forced, ime. So, if ds was enjoying his cheese, and dd wanted some cheese, I would find a way to make that happen. One option is to buy a chunk or slice of cheese. But, perhaps, something equally preferable to your daughter, such as a cookie or fruit or granola bar, etc. would meet the immediate desire for something to eat. I don't believe that an "equal" portion of the *same* item is the only way to meet the need. Certainly, as parents we can tell our children "here is an equal portion" and *create* the need for "my share". If dd is hungry, I'd discuss what she would like to have and try to meet that. I don't understand how what one person wants is relevant to what another person possesses. I want (and don't have) many things that others have. There is no compulsion to "share" with others, or with me. I don't want to model taking what I want from others just because they have what I want! I would model *asking* for what I/dd wants.

I share from a sense of gifting and joy. I don't want "sharing" to be associated with hurt and sadness. Taking the cheese probably doesn't meet your underlying goal of ds learning the joy of sharing, imo.

post #13 of 175
I agree with you, OP! The solution was to ask for two pieces of cheese....my dd1 does that for her sister anytime someone is handing out goodies. People often assume she's trying to get two for herself! (I'm amazed at how programmed we are to assume the worst of children.)

I don't steal my kid's stuff. My kids are amazing at sharing, especially when someone has a genuine need (hunger, thirst, etc.). I think in part because I don't take their stuff.
post #14 of 175
I think sometimes this GD worrying about the child's feelings can create selfishness.
In what ways do you mean this? Are you saying that parents who consider needs and feelings create selfish children? I'd like to better understand what you're saying
post #15 of 175
This is a tricky one. I found myself agreeing with all posters. I agreed with BC, then thismama posted & I agreed with her...

Had to think a bit on it.

Ultimately, I think the only really fair response would be to have asked for another peice of cheese.

This is a good one to "file away" for if a situation like this comes up again.
post #16 of 175
I think WuWei's phrased it best. I especially like how you made it a concept not a rule. That's my downfall, I keep wanting to make rules for how to handle things instead of looking at underlying concepts.
post #17 of 175
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
In what ways do you mean this? Are you saying that parents who consider needs and feelings create selfish children? I'd like to better understand what you're saying
I dunno, it's hard to articulate. I guess what I'm saying is there is a line, kwim? I'm all for being gentle and loving and respectful, and considering the child. To a point. After that it becomes too child-focused for me, like the one child's feelings are considered to the exclusion of other people. You get a piece of cheese, your sibling doesn't, your sibling wants some. Share, dammit! Yk? Not, well it's his cheese and he shouldn't have to share if he doesn't want to, etc. I like the idea of we work together as a family, and mama is the leader/guider. (And dad if you have one). Sometimes for me that involves laying down the line, speaking very directly, parent imposed sharing, or parent imposed consequences.

Personally I don't have the energy to take forever to figure out every situation. Harried in a grocery store, I would be inclined to ask the child to share, and if they refused, I would enforce sharing, with a respectfully but directly delivered explanation of the fact that the child is expected to share, and a short explanation of why.

And then move on to the frozen aisle...

ETA - And when I say 'ask,' I mean not: "Can you please share with your little brother?" But more like, "Can you please share with your little brother."
post #18 of 175
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
I think WuWei's phrased it best. I especially like how you made it a concept not a rule. That's my downfall, I keep wanting to make rules for how to handle things instead of looking at underlying concepts.
Reread her bit, yes I agree...

Me, too...with the rule thing. Must work on that.
post #19 of 175
I do not believe you can "teach" sharing by forcing it or imposed "consequences" around the concept. If anything, I believe it makes kids not want to share. Look at it from the boy's perspective. Someone gave him a "gift". Then someone else told him he had to share and how much he had to share. As an adult, it is easy for us to see the "unfairness" of the boy having cheese and the girl not getting any. I agree with pps that life is not fair. But there are ways as a parent that I can help everyone get what they want. It is not a big hassle. It does not take a lot of time. And it teaches more about the whole situation than forcing the act of sharing. If I had been in that sitiuation, I would have gone back and got another piece. If that was impossible, I would ask ds to save his cheese for a few minutes until we checked out and I could give something to dd that she was happy with it. Or better yet, I would ask him what would be a good solution to his sister being upset about her cheese-free state. Without shaming or grabbing, he might have decided to share as his own idea or came up with something we are totally missing.

FTR, I also do not believe that any amount of "considering children's feelings" creates selfishness. It is modelling the opposite of selfishness.

To the OP. That situation sucks and it is really easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback. We do the best we can and don't beat ourselves up about it. In the end I am sure you did just fine. The fact that you question it and are asking suggests that you do care what your son's feelings were and that is really all that will matter in the end. I might sit down with ds and ask him if he remembers it. Talk about his ideas on how the situation could be handelled in the future. You might be surprised.
post #20 of 175
I don't know, I do believe you can teach sharing by enforcing it. Sort of like, "This is our value system." And mama makes sure we live it. That means sometimes one child benefits and the other sacrifices, sometimes the other child benefits from another person's sacrifice. A lot of times mama sacrifices and the children benefit.

That's how I do it, anyway.
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