Like I think most moms with toddlers, I naturally taught my first, second, and third child to share. You know the situation:
A child you don’t know is playing near your child at the library. They suddenly both want the same toy. You say,
“Be nice honey. You need to share.”
I mean, sharing is caring, right?
A year or so ago I came across an article that suggested sharing is actually not the best thing to teach your kids after all. The idea was that you shouldn’t FORCE your child to share, or expect other kids to share with yours, because when they grow up and get in the real world, adults don’t share with each other – you just have to get your own or deal with disappointment.
I tried that for awhile. I was looking for a new approach to the conflict all us moms have in which Child A is playing with Child B’s toy, and suddenly Child B wants the toy. Well, who has rights to it? Child A, because they picked it up first? Or Child B, because it ‘belongs’ to them? This new “no sharing” approach didn’t really solve my dilemma: There was still a loser.
For awhile I tried a kind of in between where I just did whatever I thought the situation called for, taking into account the temperaments of each child involved.
This has left me feeling like I have no ‘method’ at all, except to be intentional about how I problem solve with them.
But tonight I realized maybe having no ‘method’ isn’t so bad after all, after I witnessed this most beautiful exchange which I hope I never forget (and is mostly the reason why I’m writing about it):
B: Mom, do you want this bite of the cookie with the snowflake sprinkle? It’s the tastiest!
Me: Oh, are you sure bud? That’s the last sprinkle. You can have it if you want.
B: No, I want you to try it. It’s really good.
Me: Okay, thank you! (takes bite)
(I’m not sure exactly how this part started, I must have missed a sentence while I was chewing! haha! But it went something like this…)
B: Aubrey, do you want my other cookie?
A: What, that one from your Christmas party?
Me: Brendan that’s so sweet! You don’t mind her having it? It’s your last one.
B: Yeah, I’m sure. (hands the cookie across the table)
A: I can have the whole thing?
A: Here, do you want me to split it in half?
B: Oh, yeah!
A: (splits cookie in half and gives some back to him)
Me (amazed, silently in my head): YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m taking a mental picture of this whole conversation because it was just beautiful. There were so many good things in that one exchange: selflessness, love, compromise.
I’ve been seeing that B is such a loving, caring, selfless kid. Quite often he gives up a toy to his little sister when he can see she’s upset and wants to play with it. Or he’ll share his food with one of us.
I have also been trying to offer creative solutions to A when she is in a difficult situation. We tend to see things as black or white, but sometimes there is also red. Or blue. Or any number of other colors/solutions. I was so blown away by her suggestion – that at barely 7 years old, she has learned to:
1. Accept a gift from the giver graciously
2. Intuit what other people may want
3. Offer a compromise which makes all parties happy
I’m pretty sure I only learned how to do this in my recent adult hood. And she’s got it down by age 6.
I’m blessed y’all.
Going back to that article. Is that the kind of adult we wish our kids to be? Is that how we want them to view the world? Full of unsharing, unkind, selfish people? A mass of hardened hearts, unable and unwilling to open their hands and offer what they are holding to our Mighty God who can multiply it?
We cannot lay out one set of rules for our children, and expect as adults they will just do something different. They will do what we teach them, now, because it will become habit for them. What you choose to do and how you choose to act shapes who you are.
This situation at the dinner table foreshadows exactly what I hope for my children as they grow into adulthood: that they are able to discern the feelings of those around them with eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16); communicate with others in love, not holding back out of fear (1 John 4:18); that they don’t hold so tight to worldly possessions that the real treasure (people) becomes secondary; and that they open their hands, surrendering all they have, for God to use in His Kingdom.
Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6