Communal toys, sharing, and kids being kids - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-21-2007, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dd goes to a playground and an indoor playspace where there are many communal toys. She is 15 months, so she's pretty much interested in anything any other child is holding. I'm trying to find a way to deal with her "mine-ness" that is non-punitive but also respectful of the other child.

At the playground, if she takes something (say, a shovel) that another child is playing with, I gently tell her that the other child is playing with it, give it back to the other child, and give her a replacement (a different shovel, a bucket, whatever).

At the playspace, there are multiples of every toy. So, if she takes a ball out of the hand of another child, I might grab an identical ball and then hand that back to the other child (dd will then want THAT ball, of course). I don't make a big thing of this--usually, just, "Oh, do you want that ball? Then let's give him this ball." I just don't think, at 15 months, she can understand the concept of sharing very well. I don't tell her "NO" or chastise her for reaching for something she's interested in.

Many other parents around me are MUCH more aggressive about "making" their children share. If dd has 3 bean bags, and another child takes one, the parents will often intercede, say "No!", take the bean bag out of the child's hand, and tell him, "SHE'S playing with that. You have to share." That seems like a bit much to me--frankly, if dd has three bean bags, she probably doesn't mind losing one, and if she really wants it back she'll let you know. I think it's age-appropriate for other toddlers to want what MY dd has, just as she's interested in what they have. But I also don't want other parents to think I'm being somehow remiss by not demanding my dd give back anything she touches--if offering the other child an equal replacement not the "right" response.

I always feel a little awkward in these situations. A lot of the parent-child interaction I see at playgrounds is parents chastising their children or, alternatively, telling them "Good job" for every little thing they do (going down the slide, sitting on the swing, whatever). We don't do a lot of either of these things. I'm just not sure if there are better ways for me to handle her (age-appropriate, IMO) grabbiness.
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Old 08-21-2007, 03:21 PM
 
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I always feel awkward in these situations too, like there's some unspoken expectation that I step in and force my 15 mo DD to "share". Usually, I keep an eye on the situation and let the kids figure things out amongst themselves unless it's apparent that one or the other is upset. In many cases I've seen toys change hands, even grabbed suddenly away, and neither child seems to care one way or the other.

Honestly, though... I think 15 months is too young to even grasp the concept of sharing yet.

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Old 08-21-2007, 03:31 PM
 
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Honestly, though... I think 15 months is too young to even grasp the concept of sharing yet.
I agree.

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Old 08-21-2007, 03:44 PM
 
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At the playground, if she takes something (say, a shovel) that another child is playing with, I gently tell her that the other child is playing with it, give it back to the other child, and give her a replacement (a different shovel, a bucket, whatever).

At the playspace, there are multiples of every toy. So, if she takes a ball out of the hand of another child, I might grab an identical ball and then hand that back to the other child (dd will then want THAT ball, of course). I don't make a big thing of this--usually, just, "Oh, do you want that ball? Then let's give him this ball." I just don't think, at 15 months, she can understand the concept of sharing very well. I don't tell her "NO" or chastise her for reaching for something she's interested in.
I do much the same, but still feel awkward about it admist all the demands of other parents to "share." Sometimes I also try to engage both children, saying something like, "Let's throw the balls!" If the grabbiness (by either child) gets to the point that someone is constantly in tears or DD starts hitting, I'll redirect her to another activity for a while.

I hate the awkwardness of it all, though. Like we feel obligated to demand "sharing" so that other parents don't somehow get offended by what is really normal toddler behavior. I find it happens more often in groups of strangers or in playgroups where people are just getting to know eachother--like nobody wants to offend anyone else by 'letting' their child grab a toy, touch something that doesn't belong to them, try to eat another kid's snack, etc, etc. It's just so exhausting (for mama and toddler)! :
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Old 08-21-2007, 04:57 PM
 
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Many other parents around me are MUCH more aggressive about "making" their children share. If dd has 3 bean bags, and another child takes one, the parents will often intercede, say "No!", take the bean bag out of the child's hand, and tell him, "SHE'S playing with that. You have to share."
That so bugs me about the use of the word "share". What you said is pretty much how I hear most parents using it. I wonder if the child would define share as "get yelled at and get toy snatched away". Um - A child is not going to learn "don't grab things away from people" if they are having things snatched from them by adults.

To me sharing is freely giving something that was already "yours" to begin with. I will ask dd's if they want to share my snack - i.e. I would love to give some to them if they want it. Otherwise we don't use the word "share" much. It feels kind of icky and controlling.

It's so much better to be truly descriptive if you're going to get involved. Since I have twins I deal with the grabbing of toys constantly and have been since a young toddler age. I basically say to the grabber - "you took her toy and she is sad, can you give it back to her please" Talking about the action (taking), the consequence (sad sister) and how to help (give it back). Now that they are older, I ask more questions about what happened to help them be aware of what they did and come up with a solution. Sometimes the grabber gives the grabee a new toy and if it works for both of them it works for me.

I get involved with other kids too, by asking for something back if one of my dd's is upset, modeling for the future how to ask for something back. Today at the bookstore train table a boy came up a snached the train out of one dd's hand and she cried. I asked the boy if he could please give it back, because dd is sad. He ignored me (which I consider totally normal) so I focused on dd, "you are sad because he took your green train etc. etc." Then my other dd came over and gave her sister the green train she was playing with and pretty much solved the problem!!!
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Old 08-21-2007, 05:19 PM
 
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I also don't like "forcing" dd to share. And I also see lots of parents doing it. And I also feel like they will think I'm a "bad" parent for not intervening and doing the same. On the flip side, I think many parents force their children to share because they are afraid of being seen as a bad parent.

So, I try not to let it get to me. If none of the kids are upset, I don't do a thing. If another kid takes something from dd and she's okay with it, and a parent is still insisting it be returned, I tell them it's okay, as long as she's not upset. Some parents are hell-bent on "teaching" their kids to share, so they go forward with it anyway . If one or both of the kids are upset, I try to handle it the way the pp's have mentioned. Talking it over, is someone willing to take a substitute, talking about the feelings (who is upset and why), etc. Sometimes there is no good solution, and in those cases I will remove the toy from dd and give it to the other child. But I always feel bad about it. Especially since she is generally a very giving and easy-going child.

As for how to cultivate the desire to share ... I try to create a sense of abundance in dd's life. There is always plenty to eat, plenty to play with, etc. I also avoid labeling things as "mine" or "yours". In fact, she is one of the few two-year olds I know who doesn't declare things as "MINE!" This can be a very subtle and pervasive thing. I found myself saying, "Do you want a bite of my apple?" and had to change it to, "Do you want a bite of apple?" Stuff like that. When I started paying attention, I couldn't believe how often I used possessive language. So I think eliminating that has helped a lot. Having a sense of communal ownership seems to make her more willing to let things flow through her hands. I have also built up a lot of trust with dd. I ALWAYS do what I say I will, and I don't lie to her (e.g., I won't say "you can't have any crackers because they're all gone" when they're not really all gone, even though it seems like this would make my life easier in the short run). She really trusts me, and this makes things a lot easier. When she wants something and I say "You can have that in a few minutes" she is generally okay with it, because she knows I mean it. It doesn't ALWAYS work , but it works a lot of the time. And she is also very good about "trading" toys when someone wants what she has or vice versa.

Again, it's never perfect, and there are times when she doesn't want to give things up, or really wants what someone else has. But it's actually surprisingly rare. I think part of that is personality, and part of it is the environment we've created.

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Old 08-21-2007, 05:43 PM
 
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I hate these situations too. I usually prefer to talk about taking turns, rather than sharing. If my ds grabs something from another kid, I usually say something like, "I'm not sure that other boy was finished playing with that toy. Let's ask him if we can take a turn when he's done." If someone grabs something away from ds, I try to diffuse the situation by saying something like, "we'll take another turn with the toy when this girl is done." Or if the other child was particularly grabby, and ds was clearly engrossed in his toy, I say something like, "Let's tell this boy that we weren't finished playing with that toy. He can take a turn when you're done."

Seems like it all depends on the mix of personalities (kids and moms) on different days. Sometimes everything flows easily....and sometimes everyone's so uptight!

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Old 08-21-2007, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by LittleYellow View Post
That so bugs me about the use of the word "share". What you said is pretty much how I hear most parents using it. I wonder if the child would define share as "get yelled at and get toy snatched away". Um - A child is not going to learn "don't grab things away from people" if they are having things snatched from them by adults.
Exactly! The other day a 2 yo old boy came up to dd (who was just sitting contentedly in the sand) and said "No!" His mom came up to him, grabbed him by the arm and said, "No! We don't say "no" to other children." :

I love the idea of communal language, BTW.
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Old 08-21-2007, 06:25 PM
 
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IMO, distraction is the only "discipline" technique for a child of that age... or even into preschool!

Stacey teaching teens to read & write... Daddy plays ska, DD1 (7/05) loves trees & princesses, & DD2 (3/10) loves mommy-milk! Please get your kids tested for lead.
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:19 PM
 
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Yeah distraction's about it. Honestly at this age they're too young to understand anything but the Right Now and so I think it's asking too much to expect them to behave civilized. We can model good behavior, and use our parenting skills to divert them from hazards and causing harm, but expecting them to learn sharing or other social graces is a bit premature. DD is 14 months old and while she is in fact a toddler, she also is just a baby who walks and talks a little.

I just don't see a point in getting kids this age together to play for very long, frankly. : Maybe when she's closer to a stage where she doesn't smear her food all over herself and scream like a monkey when her will is thwarted, I'll start taking her more to preschool soirees. Until then, our socialization time with peers is very brief "say hi to the baby" encounters and the occassional 5-minute play session.

I find it incredibly stressful to go to "playgroups" now. When she was a lap baby nursing and cooing, ok, talk to the other moms. When she's a bit older and able to hear some reason, alright, she can play with the other kids. Now? No, not happening.

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