First off let’s just say no one is an expert here. We’re all just a bunch of crazy people trying to raise a bunch of awesome kids!
Most of us have this idea that it’s crucial to teach toddlers to “share” but what exactly does that mean. When we think of two small children on the playground and one has a toy that the other one wants, why do we picture sharing as the first child immediately giving up the toy to the second? That’s not really how sharing works, that’s just one person demanding something and the other complying.
The greater lesson is to teach patience and empathy. While we’d be first to give you a gold medal for simply getting through the day with a tiny dictator informing everyone around them just how many things belong to them, taking a second to realize why they’re doing it may actually help you to chill out. “No, mine!” is maybe one of the most irritating things to hear over and over but it’s actually a toddlers way of developing their sense of self. Their favourite possessions become an extension of themselves and they’re letting everyone in earshot know about it.
The idea isn’t to encourage toddlers not to share but to get them to want to share instead. Asking if they’d like to let Sally play with the red tractor because it would make her happy is totally cool but forcing them to hand it over sends a confusing message. If Sally gets the tractor just because she wants it then logically I can have whatever I want simply because I want it. Right?…
Let’s try and teach these little buggers to wait (which is super duper hard) and empathize (which is even harder) while they play. The end result might make you feel like the whole park is watching your kid “not share” their own toy with a kid they’ve never met before but the pay off comes with watching them offering up their possessions on their own terms because they know it will make another kid happy.
Illustration by Mike Best