Like any 3 year old, my DD has difficulties sharing. The usual grandparental response is “you have to learn to share!”. Well duh. She has to learn to drive one day, too, but I don’t expect her to work a stick-shift just yet.
Besides, sharing is really hard. It goes against a strong self-preservation instinct (though I am aware that sharing is also an integral part of most primate societies). And, if truth be told, I have difficulties sharing, too.
Like last night, I had some leftover ice cream (DH had eaten all his). It was my current obsession: Ben and Jerry’s Gobfather. I really wanted to sit and eat it while watching TV (we have one channel, so getting to watch a show I am interested in doesn’t happen very often) but everybody was up and I knew if I brought it out I would have to share it with DH, DD and even DS. It was a battle between my sweet tooth, who wanted instant sugary satisfaction, and my own selfish desires to have it all to myself.
And I’ve had 37 years of “practice” in sharing!
It’s interesting to see the bizarre workings of the 3 year old mind. They truly live in a different universe than adults. When I pick DD up from preschool and she eats her snack in the car on the way home, if I suggest to her that she share a cracker or peice of apple with her baby brother, who is sitting right next to her eyeing her food hungrily, she will respond with an emphatic “No!”. If DD doesn’t want to share, we honour and respect that (unless of course, the object in her possession is not hers; in which case she has to either take turns, or negotiate a trade with the other person, or some other solution that she is part of determining). But if left to her own devices, most of the time she will offer him a peice of something, and then report back happily to me about it. “Mama, I gave DS some apple!”. And it is those moments that make me proud, because her sharing truly comes from within.
Personally, I want my DD to share out of empathy. I want her to see the emotions in the other child and want to help out. I try to teach her to see how the child is reacting (“DS is crying. Why do you think he is crying? What can we do to make him feel better?”). So many adults fail to appreciate that kids aren’t born into this world knowing what an emotion is. I mean, I think they have a gut feeling, but they can’t put their finger on it enough to be analytical about it. I think teaching them how to identify them is the very first step every parent should take, long before they start trying to control the emotions (which they shouldn’t be doing anyways, IMHO, but so many think this is the first and most important step). Until a child can recognize his/her own feelings how can they recognize them in others? Until they can label the feeling, how can they remember the appropriate ways to express those feelings that we try to teach them?
So, in our house, we respect that sharing is hard and there isn’t any “nice” or “not nice” about it. And when DD does share, which she does with steadily increasing frequency as she gets older, it is such a True and honest gift from the heart. It is not done out of any external motivation, but because it feels Right for her. And when she does it all on her own, without even being asked, that is truly rewarding.