Sharing hurts

The following scenario is an example on how to handle conflict situations if your child does not wants to share.

The scenario: Paul likes to play with Sherman’s favorite red fire truck. Sherman snatches the car out of his hands. At the same time he grabs with his other hand everything else around him. Paul has no right to touch any of his toys. Mom shouts: You must give him something to play with or otherwise he will not visit you again.

(I have to admit, I have done the exact same thing.)

First problem is you are blackmailing you child, second your child is not yet old enough to understand the consequences. Never the less it is correct to intervene. As verbal communications at this age are still limited, as a parent you are committed to help out.

Example: Paul, why don’t you ask Sherman what toy you may have?

The possibility that Sherman lets Paul have one toy is relatively high even if it is just the most uninteresting one of all. If he accomplished that first step it will make it easier for him to give up on the red fire truck 10 minutes later.

If Sherman rejects to give up even one single toy you have the chance to say: Sherman you don’t want to share a toy? – Mmh, this is silly, sorry Paul but all the toys belong to Sherman. I would like to give you some but those are not mine.

It is a way for you slow down the conflict and Sherman learns to understand that he is accepted and he has control over (the situation) his toys. Than you can try again: “Look Sherman, maybe Paul can play with the police car”?

If that does not help take Paul aside and let him play with things they don’t belong to Sherman (keys, pencil and paper etc. I won’t take long and Sherman is ready to give up on his rebellious stance because the new game is much too interesting to not join in.

Golden Rules For Play Dates

Let us start with some reflections to make this play party a nerve saving and hopefully a tear free experience.

The preparation! Hide the toys you know are your child’s favorites. For instants the cuddle bear he/she sleeps with or the new red truck you know he would never like to share. This way you avoid putting your child in the situation to have to give up on something he would never ever do.

What is the best time? Kids in a happy and relaxed mood fight less. Who had a good night sleep or a nap is less grouchy and whiny. So the best time depending on the age would be in the morning after breakfast and before the energy level at lunch goes down. A good time is also after the nap in the early afternoon.

How long should it last? Don’t try a marathon. Children of the age of 2 to 3 have a play tolerance of about an hour maximum 90 minutes smaller children respectively less. No matter what, parents are always there as a referee.

How many kids shall I invite? In the beginning you should limit the invite to just one child especially if they have to play inside. To ask your child  to pay attention to more than one kid is too much for children at the age of 3 or under.

Sources of distraction! TV, computer or radio are no background entertainment. Please shut them off because it will distract and overwork the children concentration. Same applies to cd stories.  Kids playing with others are busy and have enough stimulation trying to concentrate on the action of the other one.

Choosing the games! Let the children choose the games. But make clear that there has to be a decision on what and how many toys otherwise you run the risk that all the toys will be dragged out. If you see that for example the ball, the puzzle or the Duplo blocks become rather unattractive don’t offer new game immediately. It is important that you give fresh impulses like: “You could build a garage, mix the puzzle again or let the ball touch the floor before catching. Sometimes it is easier to promote cooperation through a variation of the known, rather than of new toys.

The territory! If you plan on having the play date in your child’s room than you put yourself up for conflict. A neutral territory like the family room or the kitchen if big enough is the best choice. It is easier to compromise in “nobody’s land”.

The supervisor! Stay close, children need the help of adults to learn how to act and react in case of a conflict.  Don’t expect that at your first play party your kids will play all by themselves. You are the referee: “Samantha took my doll? Ok I understand it is yours maybe we can find another one Samantha likes and we can exchange?”