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Reflections of Sharing

Date: March 12, 2015 Author: hpelc Categories: Educators Blog

Written by Loretta Davis

You can’t make a child share.

(I would like to note: This blog I’m writing won’t have an answer at the end. It won’t tell you that children shouldn’t share, or should share. Rather, I intend to share my insights and constructs of the topic) J

The toddler rule of possession are quite clear.

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
  5. If it’s mine, it must NEVER appear to be yours in any way.
  6. If I’m doing or building something, all pieces are mine.
  7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
  8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
  10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

This wonderful piece of information was shown to me by a mentor of mine, in the very early stages of my early childhood career. And it has stuck with me, all these years through. Once I read this, and once I opened my eyes to what was happening around me, all I could say was; “So true.” There are families out there who come in to us educators saying, “Oh, the siblings won’t share, they don’t share with their neighbours or on their playdates, oh I wish they would share like they do here at daycare!”

Several years ago, I began to become interested in what seemed to be a bit of a touchy or taboo principle in the early childhood industry.

Children shouldn’t be forced or coerced to share.

And I wondered, “What’s my stance on this?”

And if I’m to be honest with you all, I still don’t know. There are times when I catch myself out, trying to diffuse conflict or situations by saying, “So-and-so had it first, they aren’t quite done with it, let’s give the toy back.” Or even, “They are a bit upset, let’s share and do it together!”.

Backtracking more (flashback history in this blog, sorry everyone) and I attended a Malarky play seminar. It was all about the role of the adult in play. Do we facilitate? Are we the peacemaker? Are we there to help children make friends? Do we catch out the risks and safety hazards? I left that seminar feeling so determined, to be an unbiased part of children’s play. So determined! I had learnt how trying to include children in other children’s play can often break the concentration, the thought paths and the motives of the children already engaged. That, often, it would be a better idea to attempt to create a new thought path for that child, and other available children, by providing a stimulating environment that sent messages of play ideas for the children to pick up on and interpret. I learnt that when there are ideas, there is communication, and when there is communication, there is teamwork. However, not all conflict works out, does it? And sometimes, the adult does need to intervene.

And this, friends, is where I struggle. I’m sure parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, neighbours, parents in charge of the playdate and those without their own children experience the same struggle.

Is it easier for me to end it, and to make a decision? Or is there a way I can facilitate this?

This is where my favourite word comes in. Communication.

Communicating to the children, and providing them with choice, allows them the ability and the opportunity to make decisions, to negotiate, to build understandings, engage with consequences and to develop a strong sense of esteem. Often, I find, if I move in to resolve a situation (and especially of late, with my time in the babies’ room, where our understanding of communication is less than what you would expect of an older child), that I am missing opportunities. I like to reflect back to moments of difficult days, challenges, and those children who made me stand up and say to myself, “Hang on, I have an opportunity here.” This also plays into my role of child right’s advocate, as children have the right to influence their day, and to make decisions.

“Children actively construct their own understandings and contribute to other’s learning. They recognise their agency, capacity to initiate and lead learning, and their rights to participate in decisions that affect them, including their learning.” – Early Years Learning Framework.

The EYLF helps us enable children’s rights, by stating it in such a simple, concise and flexible way. It makes it clear, that all these little moments in your child’s day, are moments that allow initiation, learning, participation, recognition, agency, autonomy, thought, consideration, decisions, communication and that they have the right, for that to occur for them, every day. So when it comes to sharing, when it comes to practices, when it comes to choices… how do we communicate?

I find something very important is to validate emotions. It is a big thing for a little kid to say they have big feelings. Voicing that, is a risk in their mind. Is the adult going to listen? Will it influence the conversation or decisions? If the children are able to both discuss their emotions in an open and fair way, they have already achieved one kind of sharing. Sharing the platform of talking and listening. The first step of resolution. Next would be to discuss our options. Are their more toys, are they still interested in playing together, do they have any ideas on how to fix the situation? You’d be surprised with what they can come up with. Next, you help implement it. Whether that means stepping back and watching it unfold, jumping into play to get your hands dirty and break the tension with some laughter, or helping them find more resources, who knows? Creating the open forum for communication, sharing ideas and feelings, and allowing room to move regarding resolution and decisions, will have a big impact on a little kids life. As time goes on, and more opportunities are explored, those toddler rules of possession begin to change. They develop:

  • Awareness of emotions and how to express these feelings (as well as listening to how others feel, too)
  • Understandings of how to openly discuss opposing ideas or conflict, identifying the problem
  • Offering their ideas (and negotiating on aspects of their ideas, accepting change, and other peoples offerings)
  • Deciding what happens next
  • Self-esteem that they controlled a part of their day, collaborated with others and resolved or fixed something!

It doesn’t always go that way. There are hiccups, and unexpected shoutings of refusal and tears. Oh, the tears! But when they see your consistent attempts of creating that open forum of communication, they begin to understand they have a voice, and they begin to understand the influences that has on their world.

So, to conclude, I invite, I urge, I encourage, everyone; look for the opportunities. Discover the words. Offer the choices. Be there. Because when it happens, it’s like finding gold. It is so much more valuable than helping that other child simply get their toy back from your hands, taking it from the snatcher, so much more valuable than a child being coerced to share, being told it is the right thing to do. The child gets to see the value, and so do the adults.