Your children fight over the red ball, shout as loud as they can to get the book in the other's hands, or hit each other with a tennis racket until the other finally gives up?
How come they can't play calmly for more than 10 minutes?
If you are in this situation, you should know that children naturally think first of themselves, their desires and their well-being. It's normal and it's human!
Except that in order for you to spend a serene afternoon with these youngsters, you will have to teach them to share. Yes, this will take time and patience, but it's a worthwhile investment that will pay off: it's so good to read under the duvet while the kids play and laugh in the living room!
Rule 1 - Set clear and short rules, which are the framework for finding a solution
He has taken her ball, her first instinct is to push. THAT'S FINE. Except that the rule is "In our family, we don't push". So we take a break, and we learn, even at 3 years old, to express "I want the red ball."
By learning to express his need, i.e. his goal, the child already has some perspective on the situation.
Then we help them to find out how to achieve their objective in a civilised manner, i.e. without shouting louder than their brother or sister, without hitting or biting.
Avoid taking sides and making decisions: "Come on, you're a big boy, let him have the ball", as this could create resentment or discourage older children. It should not always be the same child who shares, and the rules should be strict about not pushing, not biting, not hitting, not pinching, etc.
Rule 2 - Show them options for achieving the solution
You can suggest alternatives:
* be patient and wait 5 minutes for their turn (very useful in life!)
* ask the other person to make an effort and make an effort in return by taking turns with the red ball for 2 minutes each (spirit of mutual aid)
* invent a game where the first person keeps the red ball and the other person participates by being the football goalie or the ball seller, for example (team spirit!)
* look for resources within yourself to have fun despite frustration, for example by showing that the ball is taken but that the little car is available (accepting frustration without despairing is a must if you want to be happy)
* accept that they do not always get what they hope for, i.e. that they will not get the red balloon this time, and propose another game, either alone (colouring, reading, etc.) or with others (board game, Playmobil, etc.). The child learns to look within himself for resources to solve his problem.
Be imaginative in the solutions you propose, and with time, the children will find solutions themselves.
Rule 3 - Set an example and note the efforts
OK, so you don't dream of playing mistigri or painting with your children in the morning. But taking 30 minutes to paint and sharing your brushes with your children shows how it is possible to give something to each other and still have a good time. Sharing an object doesn't take away from who you are and makes the other person happy. It is an effort, and your child can learn this way. You can show him that he can be happy without the balloon, by sharing it, by doing something else, by finding a compromise, by creating a solution that suits both children involved. Tell him when you have seen that he has made the effort to share, thank him, show him how sharing allows us to live together, in relationship with those around us. This is a way that makes you happy! In the long term, it's nicer to share than to stay alone in your corner with your red balloon...
Rule 4 - Collaboration is encouraged, not comparison
Power struggles or turf battles can arise from a child's desire to belong. Why does he want the red ball now? Because his brother has just taken it? To be 'like the big guy'? To feel that he has value? Because he just wants to try this game that looks like fun when he watches the other one use it? The child doesn't intellectualise all this with his young brain but you are able to discover what is behind the situation, what is his need for love behind this little battle, and how to fill his tank (tenderness, special time, word of encouragement, etc). Favouring activities all together (baking a cake) or alone (I'll make a Duplo tower with your sister and then I'll come with you to build the train), as much as doing an activity all together as a family (a board game for example), shows different options where each one has its place. Avoid competition and above all comparison: there is nothing worse than playing together and being told that your brother runs faster / plays chess better / was so good at doing something at the same age. Let your compliments be for one child, without comparison with another. If each child is sure of his or her own intrinsic value and feels loved for who they are, there is no need to fight for all the games, the most cakes at snack time, all the talking time or the loudest voice.
What examples of difficult sharing do you experience with your children? Feel free to comment or forward to a mum with similar questions about sharing! And sign up to be notified of the next post on the Radiance blog!