We were at the playground the other day. In spite of all the swings and slides on offer, Joshi had become engrossed with a little broom he’d found there. He was loving it and sweeping everything in sight. Then this kid, a bit older than him, came over and took the broom. Joshi was totally fine with it – the other kid’s mom however, wasn’t! She yelled at her kid, telling him off for taking the broom and took the broom back to Joshi. Of course, by this time, Joshi was busy playing with something else. I tell you what, a police cap wouldn’t have looked out of place on that mum.
Playground Interactions Are Often More About The Parents
Of course it’s easy to reason in hindsight, but had she not felt compelled to react angrily she could’ve …
- Gently got her kid to ask Joshi if he could use the broom, showing that it’s pretty cool to ask for something from someone before taking it.
- Let her kid use the broom for a bit and then take it back to Joshi, showing some consideration for them both.
- Just let the kids get on with it.
The Confusion Between Teaching Ownership And Encouraging Sharing
I see it a lot in playgrounds and on the beach – mums who hover over every interaction between the kids, doing all they can to return each object to the kid it belongs to. “No darling, that’s not your bucket, that’s Tom’s bucket, let’s give it back to him. Here’s your bucket…” Isn’t this ongoing reinforcement of what belongs to who simply teaching kids that they should heavily guard their possessions? Instead of a kid being taught that “this is your bucket, your spade, or Tom’s bucket or spade,” why can’t we just teach kids that this is ‘a’ bucket, ‘a’ spade, etc. Surely sharing would be a whole lot easier if it didn’t come with the sense of loss that typically accompanies handing over something that you’ve learnt is yours. It must be pretty confusing for kids when adults put so much emphasis on what possession belongs to what kid and then seconds later tell them to hand over their guarded possession to another kid because they need to ‘share’. Although, according to Dr Sears (affiliate link), the “mine” stage of toy possessiveness is a normal passing phase of toddler play, there must be many ways that us adults can lessen all the conflict around it.
Toddlers Learn More From Our Actions Than Our Words
The way I see it is that kids really learn more from our actions than from our words. So if you want your kids to share, rather than repeatedly bombard them with endless verbal prompts, show them how it’s done by regularly sharing your belongings with others. They may not learn the sharing lesson in the brief amount of time you’d like them to, but they’ll eventually get it. And what’s the hurry? Of course it may be embarrassing for you if your kid goes through a phase of not wanting to share, (which they probably will), but isn’t that your stuff? – your anxiety about them not looking bad and you looking good. So what. Relax. It will happen. Rather let it happen authentically and in its own time than be anxious for your kid to learn the sharing thing fast. Being in a hurry to teach your kids certain lessons may only ingrain in them impatience, stress, anxiety, etc because what they’re really learning is your way of being.
If kids learn from people’s actions (and they do) then that little kid in the playground would have learnt from his mum that when you’re annoyed with something you shout and get angry. He would also have learnt that when you want something from someone you grab it off them. He’d grabbed the broom off Joshi in just the same manner in which his mum then grabbed the broom off him. According to Dr Sears, many children don’t object to the sharing aspect, but rather to the aggressive removal of a toy from their possession.
It’s Always Nice To Be On The Same Page As Another Playground Mum
You do sometimes meet mums in the playground who are on the same page as you. Minutes later Joshi was on a tricycle. Before he was properly off a little girl came along and jumped right on. Joshi was unperturbed at first but then one of those silent tug-of-war struggles began between them. No one was getting hurt, neither child was throwing a wobbly. Standing next to the little girl’s mother, I turned to her and said, “why don’t we just let them work it out on their own.” She happily agreed.
So What Are You Like In The Playground?
Now I’d love to hear from you. Are you the sort of mum who intervenes often or who hardly intervenes at all? Do you mostly leave the kids to ‘sort it out.’ What does it take for you to step in? Post a comment below.
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