Those seagulls from Finding Nemo always make me laugh. They have one thing on the brain: themselves. As for our children, from about 2-7 years old, they are a lot like the seagulls: egocentric. Egocentrism refers to the child’s inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view. The child assumes that other people see, hear and feel exactly the same as they do. Three-year-old Lucy watching her friend playing a drum: “I really want to play that red drum so everyone else must want me to play it too! I think I’ll just walk over there and take it!” ←Sound familiar??
“The world doesn’t revolve around you!” does not make a whole lot of sense to a child in the pre-operational stage of egocentrism. They literally think that it’s their world and we’re all just living in it. Awesome, right? ☺ So as adults, what can we do to keep our little ones from turning into these seagulls??? Model, model, model and teach by example. There are A LOT of conflicting views out there regarding whether or not it’s appropriate to “force” a child to share/take turns but regardless of what your views are – it can never hurt to model appropriate behavior when it comes to sharing and taking turns. Make a point of offering them the biggest portion of desert, offer to share your favorite slippers or funny hat your kid loves to put on, take an evening to share your time with kids, the most precious commodity you may have as far as they are concerned.
A Kindermusik class provides a wonderful outlet for practicing the difficult task of “taking turns”. Quite often we use one instrument and pass it around the circle for each child/adult to use. The other children are not only practicing delayed gratification but they’re also practicing good audience and listening etiquette. Win-win! The “instrument box” is a favorite activity among the toddler/pre-school set. The Kindermusik educator gently “dumps” a box of assorted instruments onto the floor and the children get to spend several minutes exploring and choosing an instrument to use for the play-a-long. This particular activity is always a great teaching tool and learning moment for the children. There are sometimes just 1 or 2 of a particularly popular instrument and this provides a healthy environment for the children to take turns, share, and experience delayed gratification. There are even learning experiences for the babes. In our baby gathering time, there are a few quiet toys placed in the center of the room (a few rubber ducks, shakers, soft books, etc) and with guidance from an adult, the little ones take turns with the various toys – assuming they haven’t already stuck the whole thing in their mouth ☺
When you notice that your child is becoming frustrated about wanting to have a turn with a particular toy, go ahead and acknowledge their feelings: “I see that you are upset. I know you really want a turn with that toy. It can be hard to wait sometimes but you will get a turn soon.” Then see if you can re-direct them to a different toy or activity. You will probably want to have several different approaches in your back pocket to pull out at different times (i.e. when playing with other children/moms, playing with siblings, etc). A friend of mine (and Kindermusik mom!) recently wrote a great blog post regarding sibling rivalry/sharing and she had a great idea: NO-SHARE time (you can read more about that here).
Sharing and taking turns is an essential friendship building skill and one of the first social skills that your child will learn. But there’s no need to stress over it! Just like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, eating solid foods, etc – sharing and taking turns is a developmental process. Stay consistent in your expectations and modeling and I promise your child will not turn out like those seagulls…
This post brought to you by Miss Jenni, who is in the trenches with you on this one with her own two “sharers in training.”