Yesterday, we went to the park with a bunch of my mama friends for our weekly meet up, and my son insisted on riding his big wheel bike there. Once we got there and he was playing with all his buddies, it became clear that a lot of the kids wanted to get some ride time on the bike, and my little guy was not. having. it.
At first, I was insisting that it's okay if he rides, or if she has a turn for a few minutes, or if the baby sits on it for a little while, but after 4 or 5 times telling him that we should share, I started thinking about whether or not I should be doing that.
The next time he came over to me with worry in his face because a little boy was on his bike, I knelt in front of him and asked him if he wanted to share right now. He told me no. He didn't want to share right now.
It took only a second for me to realize that for the first hour of this park trip, I was genuinely putting him into a really uncomfortable situation, feeling like he had to share, and I realized really quickly that I needed to change the way I approach sharing with my littles.
Here's a couple things that I think will make teaching sharing to my littles a little safer for them and a little easier on their sweet feelings in the future.
My new go-to with sharing is going to be, you don't have to share if you don't want to, but that means that friends don't have to share with you either. I think this is important for a couple of different reasons. It teaches him that he has control over his own possessions, and shows him that he can decide when and if he wants to let others play with them. I think that taking that choice away from him all the time isn't teaching him, it's forcing him. It also teaches him that others have that choice as well, and that it's a give and take. If you don't, then don't. I'm hoping this will help him learn the social aspect of sharing, instead of the obligatory aspect of sharing. It will show him that he can build trust and friendships with people when they both choose to share.
There are certain situations where sharing is going to be inevitable, and it is going to be unreasonable to assume that your kid doesn't have to share at all. A situation that comes to mind is when my child has a friend come over to play. The friend might be playing with all the things in our house that my son considers "his." In these situations, I've decided that we need to prep him for these moments by letting them know we're inviting his friends over to play with the toys, and that if we need to, we can set timers to take turns to make it fair, but that it's okay to share, because all these things will be here at the end of the day. I've even decided that if we need to, we can set a timer on the oven just to make the point that it's going to be okay. In 3 minutes, you'll have it back, and we'll do it all again. But if that helps everyone to feel more at ease, then it's not too much to ask.
In situations when you feel like there would be a sharing struggle (like bringing the toys to the park or to a playdate), you may want to encourage your child to not bring things that he wouldn't want others to play with. I'm sure every mama can think of at least one toy that their littles have where if someone else even looks at it too long, your kid gets close to a nervous breakdown. To avoid those types of feelings for everyone, you might want to tell your little that that toy should stay at home, and we should bring toys that we would be okay with others playing with, like sand toys or balls that are way more fun with friends. That way you're not fending off requests for said special toy, and your little isn't worrying about that more than having fun with his/her friends.