When we ask parents in our classes to name the goals they have for their children, inevitably “becoming better sharers” is at the top of their lists. Becoming a sharer is a complex process, with children putting in hard work every step of the way. I think it’s good to look at the topic holistically.
Sharing, Lending, and Borrowing
Sharing can be seen as the process of taking objects in your possession and distributing them to others. Personal sharing implies that you will lose ownership of the item once it is given away, such as a shared sandwich.
Borrowing and lending involve a transfer of temporary ownership in which the expectation is that the lent item will be returned.
If a child is asserting ownership in this way, we try to validate their feelings. Once the child has fulfilled the internal desire for ownership, or has a good sense of what they really need, they may be able to look outwards to what others want or need.
We do not want to create solutions for the children, but rather guide them toward creating their own solutions. The goal is not a child who shares because that is the rule; it is a child who shares because they have empathy and understanding of other people’s wants and needs.
How we nurture sharers and lenders at Seedlings
First off we rarely, if ever, force a child to share. There are a few exceptions, which almost exclusively involve space. Due to a limited amount of space, the cozy corner inside and tower outside are “for everyone.”
Ideas for planting the sharing seed at home
- Borrow weekly from the library, stressing who owns the books and who is taking care of them, as well as the importance of how to care for them.
- Lend things to your children, perhaps items they might not normally be allowed to play with. Teach them how to care for these special items and place a reasonable time for return. Five minutes may be enough.
- Ask to borrow your children’s things, if only for a few minutes. Be sure to find out how they expect you to take care of the item and when they want you to return it.
Don’t stress the word sharing. It is the actions that matter. Explore the idea of your child sharing because they intrinsically know they have enough, lending because they can trust someone with their possession, and being trustworthy borrowers.
Photos © Haidor Truu and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011