The Myth of Sharing

Parents, picture the scene: Your friends and family stop by to visit and invite other friends you don't know very well, but are close to your age. Your best friend says, "Hand me your keys, please! Come on, Darla saw your new car and she wants to take it for a spin. I know you'd want to share. Oh and my neice wants to borrow your earrings, the diamond ones. Now, let's be nice and share."

Yikes! There are some things we don't want to share and we would be upset if someone suggested we should. Some items are personal, or the risk of damage is too high. We wouldn't want to pay for our wrecked car or lost jewelry. Of course, there are items that we can feel comfortable sharing when there are clear expectations and consequences.

Young children feel the same way about sharing. According to the Montessori approach to education from Dr. Maria Montessori, before age six (until the first tooth falls out), children are in a developmental state of self-mastery. Child initiated activities of the three-six year old build concentration and skills through repetition. These activities also have an observable beginning, middle and end. For example, if my son was working on a building project with blocks and was asked to share his blocks in the middle of the job, he might express frustration. Just as we might if someone took our keys while we were driving.

Before the age of six, children focus on developing individual skills and can feel violated if we allow others to use his or her things. You might remember from an experience growing up or from watching your own children interact, that many sibling arguments arise from touching, using or borrowing a brother's or sister's personal items.

Having a simple rule can eliminate many of these conflicts. 

Jill Young, owner and founder of Cedars Montessori School in Austin, TX explains, when someone is using an item no one else may touch it, unless they ask permission from the user. A "no" answer must be respected. Defining an area for the activity by using a small rug or place-mat will help make it visually clear what items are being used. The user is finished with an item when it is back on the shelf, ready for the next.

Here's an example:

How to use a mat at home with multiple children

  1. Make sure you include an area to store work mats. 
  2. Work mats should be light enough for a child to pick-up and carry themselves.
  3. Ideas for a work mat are a lightweight, carpet square or placemat (which is what we'll use at home and at Grandma's house until we need a larger work space).

What tips do you use for sharing? 
Please share with us!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Such a great idea to use a mat to define one's territory.
Whoever is able to follow it, hope they share
the outcome.