Your friend is visiting and you are engrossed in a discussion about your lives. Suddenly, there is a sharp cry from the kids' room. You rush to see what happened, and as expected, a fight has erupted between your son and your friend's over a toy. I’m sure the scenario resonates with all the mothers of toddlers!
Bringing children out of the "No!" and "It's mine!" mindset is undoubtedly frustrating. "What will happen if my child turns into an arrogant brat? What if I start getting complaints from school for bullying?" As a mother you could torture yourself to hell and back, letting your imagination run rampant! The good news is, teaching children to share and care is not as tough as it seems. No doubt it requires some patience and planning, but it is definitely do-able. Here are a few pointers:
Kids Observe and Learn
If your kid observes something very keenly and you think he is too young to understand it, you are wrong. Kids are keen observers,, Be loving and caring (especially in front if them) Speak pleasant words; each time, every time. If you and your spouse are having coffee together, use a single plate for the biscuits. Emphasize on saying thank you if it does not come naturally. Hand over a small piece to your kid as well. This is the first step to this precious habit. Avoid words like "none of your business", "it's my right", "this is my house", "how dare you". Also do not use abusive words with kids. If this habit exists, don't be surprised if it comes back to bite you tomorrow. You know, Newton's third law at its best!
Sharing Begins at Home
While playing with the kids, inculcate the habit of sharing. For instance, if she is using the brush to comb her baby doll's hair, you can take the kitchen set and start to do the pseudo-cooking. After a while, request for the doll and brush and tell her it is your turn, how much you love to play with it, that you will feel hurt if she won't give it to you, and assure her that you will give it back after some time. While returning the doll, say thanks and give her a hug. This way, she will understand how much fun it is to share. The same concept can be applied while training them to do little chores at home. Gardening, cleaning, the laundry, putting the toys away, etc.
Emphasizing Positive Observations
We live in a beautiful world and have an infinite number of things to learn through observation. Igniting little minds to appreciate the smallest acts of goodness happening in the neighborhood is a good idea - an old man feeding the pigeons in the park, a lady helping a blind man cross the road, a youngster buying a loaf of bread for a hungry beggar - point all such things out to the little ones. Tell them it is important to help each other. Inculcate the habit of social responsibility from a younger age. Sending an extra pencil to school to lend it out to a fellow student, packing extra lunch to share with friends, etc. are all small but strong steps.
Taking is Equally Important
Just as important as giving is taking. Taking is very crucial in developing the child's self-respect. When there are other kids or siblings to play with, a child must get to play with the others’ toys too. Time them and make them take turns with toys, exchanging them so that each child gets to play with all the toys. Be gentle, yet firm. Failure to do so may lead to a feeling of insecurity and inferiority in the child who feels deprived or overlooked. With time, teach them to share fairly among themselves. Intervene only when necessary. This will help them become good leaders and problem solvers.
It is absolutely fine for kids to love a particular item exceptionally and be possessive about it. Appreciate this characteristic! It is the gateway to responsibility. Allow them the option of keeping it away and not share it with anyone. We all do it, even as adults don't we? Empathy is the key to keeping possessive behaviour within reasonable bounds.
However, all said and done, these pointers will not work right from day one. They are, after all, kids and we need to be patient and considerate with them. Keep trying, and they will learn how to share and care, if not today, with time and experience!