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Teaching children to share begins at home – not with lectures, but by example and by using teachable moments.
I asked her, “You finished all of it?”
This could be coming from a mother who was excited that her picky eater had finished the entire fruit all by herself. Pediatricians say that the biggest anxiety mothers face with their children is that they do not eat according to the health chart or benchmark for a particular age. So, when such a child finishes a fruit in a jiffy the mother ought to applaud, right?
My little one knew that the tone of the question didn’t depict excitement from her mother. She immediately asked me a matter of fact question, “Did you also want some, mama?”. So she got it after all. I was glad that my tone gave her an understanding of my query. Hence, it avoided a situation where I needed to clarify my enquiry.
For the past one month, we have been looking or rather leching at the three trees bearing this fruit that we call ‘Aani Chakka’ in Kerala. Two trees filled with fruits behind and one tree in front of the house. The temptation was too much for the two of us to stomach. We have not been able to get even one of those delicate delicacies as they all come down splashing and scattering on the ground, leaving us looking more at the seeds. The residue on the ground has several times tempted the duo to become scavengers, but we resisted it. This time, there was an intact fruit and my girl had finished up the whole thing without so much as offering any to one of us at home.
Since there was nothing from me beyond that single question, she validated herself, “Mama you weren’t here while I was eating.”
Since there was nothing from me beyond that single question, she validated herself, “Mama you weren’t here while I was eating.” Smart answer, but I would need to ground that smartness in logic. I told her, “You could have saved some for me and you could have offered Umma ( her grandmother) who is right before your eyes”.
Now she couldn’t find a words edgeways to defend her action. My intention here was not to corner her but to know what was on her mind as she ate her favourite fruit.
This was a teaching moment for the mother as much as it was a learning moment for a child. It is in moments like these that we have to instill the dictum “Sharing is Caring”. When we have a goal on instilling a value in the child it should not be merely told as a moral value in double inverted commas; it has to be taught in a learning situation and this situation was ideal for me.
My daughter was very excited over the fruit that she got to eat, but that excitement will wear out soon and when she is left with reality then she would not have learned the priceless value of “Sharing is Caring”. Parents often over do it for children which leads them to start sowing the seeds of selfishness. In this situation, not having offered the fruit to her mother and grandmother could easily have been a path towards selfishness. Being parents and grandparents, we do have the selflessness in us to refuse the offered fruit and let her enjoy the fruit on her own, but the child should know that she needs to offer as well.
The atmosphere became a little taut and there was silence. From across declared the grandmother, “It’s okay, I didn’t want it in any case. Don’t spoil her excitement by questioning her, let her enjoy the fruit”. There was the cliché right at my ears, “Mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pies” by Tenneva Jordan. Here it was the grandmother. We all know that grandparents pamper and spoil their grandchildren, so at this crucial time, the enlightening parent had to come to the fore.
I wished her to share, not just selectively share…. ‘Be selfless with something that you don’t like and be selfish with what you really love.’
She would easily share an apple or a mango with me as she is not very fond of that fruit but I wished her to share, not just selectively share. ‘Be selfless with something that you don’t like and be selfish with what you really love.’ Not that kind of sharing. Just plain share. So that it becomes “sharing is caring” in the true sense.
I know how annoyed children of 7 years can become with lectures so I told her in plain words ,“ We have been looking to eat atleast one pod of that fruit for days together and you would have enjoyed it more if you had shared and eaten it, that’s what we call sharing and caring.”
She told me that the next time she would offer others before eating it herself. I am hopeful for my daughter. There is always a next time. Trust your children when they say that; for the next time could be the same, yet they need for you to trust that they would change, as only this trust would make them attempt a change.
The power to possess is a natural part of a child’s growing awareness. Children have difficulty sharing. A growing child develops an attachment to things just like she develops an attachment to people. Sharing in the true sense means empathy; the ability to get into others’ minds and see things from their perspective. Children are seldom capable of true empathy, especially those below the age of 6 years. Teaching children to share is a hard task. Introducing sharing in stages can restore domestic peace.
Teaching children to share is a hard task. Introducing sharing in stages can restore domestic peace.
Children may preserve a few precious possessions to themselves like a favourite tattered doll or a ball just like adults are possessive about their wedding bands or a family heirloom possession. Parents should respect this right to possession of their child.
Parents shouldn’t force a child to share; instead create an attitude and environment to encourage the child to want to share. A child gives as she is given to. Let the parents’ sharing habits be obvious and shining to the children so that they can model the behaviour.
A child doesn’t understand the concept of sharing until the age of 5 or above. Parents could subtly introduce certain creative basics of sharing like, when you are with other children they also ask to share toys, or waiting for turns, or if the child leaves the toys then others can get to pick it up. Selflessness has to be introduced to them through modeling and connection, otherwise selfishness sets in quickly.
Jaseena Backer is a Psychologist. The world knows her as a Parenting Strategist and Gender
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