Monday, May 19, 2008
Teaching a Toddler to Share?
Several months ago I was meeting with a mom support group. One of the moms asked about teaching sharing to her 18 month old. I said what my husband and I had done with our daughter, which seems to have worked. But then all the other moms insisted that young children cannot and should not be taught to share. Sharing is not natural, they said, and toddlers definitely are not programmed to be capable of grasping the concept. I was startled. Today I was reviewing the sharing concept with my daughter, and she was really fussy about it. She hasn't always been like that.
I had taught her how to share in two parts. First, we started at home. She's an only child, and so she doesn't have any sibling competition. So during music time one evening, my husband and I started taking turns with her playing with the sticks. We did it to the rhythm of a song she knew. During one semi-lengthy phrase of music, dad would get to play with them. During the next phrase, she would. During the next phrase, I would, and then back around again. We did it to the music so that she would be able to predict how long she had to wait to get the sticks back. She protested at first, but then she got the hang of it after a few rotations and became quite the eager sharer.
Second, I worked with her in the presence of other toddlers her age, who care far more than her dad or I who is playing with what. I started with a 2 and a half year old, whose special doll my daughter wanted to hold. I prompted the older child to share with this little baby (my daughter), and she unhappily but willingly complied. I applauded this child's really, really good sharing, saying what a good sharer she is and what a big girl she is. She was so happy to hear this, that she proceeded to get everything she could off the shelf to share it with my daughter. Then my daughter, having seen and experienced this other child sharing with her, was happy to share right back. I've done this in numerous settings now with other kids, and it always works once we get over the initial sharing hump.
So I really thought this was all well and good until these mothers insisted that children cannot and should not be asked to share. At first I just disregarded them, but then today when I was practicing taking turns with my daughter as we played with her toy horse, she was going nuts. "NNNOOOOO!!!" she would squeal when it was my turn. I pried the toy out of her hands a couple of times, certain she would get the hang of it, but it just made her madder, and I started to feel uneasy about insisting on taking it from her. And I noticed that she was getting in the habit of handing me the toy for my turn, then not letting go of it and throwing a fit when I reached to take it, but insisting that I reach to take it if I decided not to... And she's not really consistent with sharing anymore when we're with other kids.
So I really want to know whether or not to continue to pursue the sharing skill. I think the music teaching went really well, and maybe we should review it that way more often. Maybe the problem is that I just assumed, "Okay, now she shares," and didn't review it enough in general. But I really want to know from other homeschooling moms who are intentionally teaching social skills to their children whether or not sharing is something to work on for a 20 month only child.