Think back to your most recent playdate with your little one and his friends. How many discussions did you have with little Jimmy and Jane about “sharing” their toys? And after each reasoned discussion were you quite sure you would never have to have that conversation again? I mean the logic of a fourteen month old is such that, once explained, the concept of sharing is rather appealing, isn’t it?
Uh…I don’t think so. If this were the case there wouldn’t be such an argument over a certain spot of land in the Middle East, right?
So, let’s face it: sharing is over-rated!
When our oldest was very young, she would have playdates with her friends in which this situation would happen: She would be playing with a particular toy and friend #1 would come along and take it from her to start playing with it. She would take it on the chin and then grab another toy to play with it for a few minutes. Then, friend #2 would come along and take it. She had no problem just going and getting another toy.
But then the possessive switch flipped in her head.
Suddenly, she was upset at the thought of a so-called friend grabbing her toy and taking it for himself. She wasn’t going to take it!
So, we came up with a solution. No, not the “sharing is caring” solution you read about in the magazines on parenting.
We taught her to TRADE!
The benefits were wonderful. Tantrums solved, every baby happy with a toy, life in toddler world was wonderful again. And here is why I think it works:
1. Each child still has something to play with. Even a baby can recognize equality. When you ask a child to give up what they have and watch someone else get all the enjoyment out of it, they are not going to get it. But if you tell the child to trade, they see (visually and physically) the merits of the situation clearly: they still have a toy!
2. There is an immediate switch to a new activity without the lag time that can create boredom (which leads to tantrums). Each child suddenly has something new to do without having to discover it for herself. It is a boredom buster for both kids.
3. There are enough toys to go around. Even if you have a few toys, children can trade them endlessly and find new life in them each time they trade.
Now, we are not going to not teach our children to share and be generous givers as they get older, but this works for the earliest stages of friend play, especially during parallel play. We taught the concept of trading to our oldest when she was less than a year old and she got it almost immediately and happily traded with us all the time! It also facilitated tantrum-free play at playdates with children of a similar age.
I know this is a bit of a different parenting strategy. What are some of the unorthodox ideas you have come up to teach your kids and keep the peace around the house? I would love to hear from you!