Every coin has two sides - ying and yang - dark and light - give and take. This time of year especially seems prone to struggles between the two sides.
On one hand, people are filled with generosity and moved to share. Workers at local businesses and community organizations adopt families for the holiday season.
Leaders at churches, synagogues, and mosques encourage their flocks to give generously and provide hope.
Dancers and bar staff donate their time and tips to help those less fortunate. Basically everyone behaves like Scrooge after the conversion.
The flip side to this thoughtfulness is the gimme gimme fostered by a constant barrage of commercials and bouncy jingles.
Kids are bamboozled into thinking they need the latest whatsit. And adults run amok, convinced they must satisfy their child's every whim.
So, big people, I know I harp on this a lot, but it bears repeating: we are being watched!
What we do and how we do it is a blueprint for children.
Running amok isn't the best way to teach children about sharing. And while the extra generosity may be laudable during December, it's important to recognize that learning to share is a long-term goal when it comes to young children.
Young children are quite innocently self-centred. Their natural inclination is to think the world is all about them. One word they learn to voice early is 'mine!' Learning to share is part of learning to get along with others, and since human beings are social creatures, getting along is important.
Trying to force a toddler to share is like trying to herd cats.
It's just not going to happen. But there are steps we can take to help children learn to share.
We can use modeling, encouragement, and repetition - lots of repetition. It's okay to talk about sharing with toddlers as soon as they are old enough to listen but, generally, children begin to grasp the concept of sharing at about three years.
Snack and play time offer great opportunities for teaching sharing.
Describe sharing as you interact with your child. "Let's share this apple. Here's a piece for you and here's a piece for me."
"Let's build a tower. Here's a block for you, and now it's my turn to add a block. We're sharing the blocks."
Demonstrate sharing with other adults and be obvious.
"Would you like some of my tea?"
"Yes, I would. Thanks so much for sharing with me."
You might not win a Golden Globe for best actor in front of a young audience, but you will make an impression. Three year olds are famous for observing and imitating.
Acknowledge positive behaviour when children share. "I like the way you gave your sister a turn with the teddy." Young children are eager to please and a little encouragement goes a long way.
Give children a chance to solve a problem on their own. If they continue to have difficulty sharing, try using a timer. Explain that when the timer rings, it will be someone else's turn to play with the toy.
Remember that young children may be especially attached to some of their toys. Encourage sharing but respect the boundaries. If other children will be visiting, let your child put away her special toy but also let her know you expect she will share the other toys.
Most importantly, stay active in your child's life and she may be more willing to share.
Her security will come less from her possessions and more from being connected to you.
Check out the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development Committee website (www.ridgemeadowsecd.ca) for information about programs for families with young children in our communities.
- Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nation.