This is how the conversation went:
7 year old.. ” can I see your car?”
6 year old.. “not now, I am using it”
7 yr. old.. insistently “please… I want to see it”
6 yr. old.. apologetically “no..not now”
7 yr. old.. bossily “you need to share”
6 yr. old..calmly “not now, I am using it”
7 yr. old.. getting upset” I won’t invite me to my party if you don’t give it to me!”
6 yr. old..exasperated “I can live with that!”
As the adult, even though I was driving, should I have jumped in and instructed the 6 year old to share? explained to him that it is kind to share? etc.
It seemed to me that the 6 year old was being very fair, he had explained “not now..I am using it” and the 7 year old should have respected that.
Sharing is a concept that is taught from a very young age. We are expected to share but as adults do we really share especially when we are using whatever it is we are expected to share..a guitar? a bike? a horse? a car? would you willingly share something that is very precious to you? Would you ask someone to share theirs?
There are degrees and different levels of sharing, sharing a pizza is more acceptable than sharing an ice-cream cone. Sharing a bag of sweets is expected sharing a toothbrush is not. Not sharing a precious item is expected and respected.
A young child considers everything he owns, something that is really his/hers as important as your car/horse/guitar…..so sharing may be difficult.
Montessori teachers teach sharing by demonstrating and modeling self respect, respect and empathy through grace and courtesy.
In a Montessori classroom a child is free to choose their work from a prepared environment, this work is placed on a mat or table and it is that child’s until she/he signals she has finished with it by replacing it in its spot, only then can another child use it. It is understood that it is “John’s work” and other children respect that. Should another child want the same work she/he can ask to join in, if “John” says “yes” they work together; if he replies “No” it is not taken personally and no threats, whining or tantrums are had, it is accepted and the child will keep busy until the work she/he wants is free. “John” may go up to him/her and say “I am finished now..you can use it.”
At home this can be translated into a respect for someones belongings no matter what age they are. If a toddler does not want to share it is not because he/she is naughty or mean, he/she just isn’t comfortable sharing yet. If recognition of this is voiced “I see you don’t want to share your teddy with Sara, thats OK sweetie maybe you will feel you can share teddy with Sara soon” a child will feel a lot less pressure to share and then will naturally, especially if respectful sharing is modeled in the home.
I do believe that a child, of any age, who is made to share regardless of their feelings will become more and more possessive and less willing to share, a situation which may quickly develop into a power struggle between siblings.
There is a delight and feeling of community in sharing but not wanting to share is also a position that should be respected in a child or an adult.
Do you agree or not? Please share your thoughts.