Quick! Come over and sip Starbucks or wine with me after the kids go to bed and make me feel like I'm not losing my mind! Because this whole being the sharing police all day thing might pull me under. It's by far the hardest lesson I've had to teach my kids in their little lives so far, and it can be an exhausting repetitive battle of the wills. You're coming at 8:00 with that drink, right?
Never has it been more evident to me that we are all born with selfishness inside us. Except for when I got married; that clearly showed me how selfish I really am, but that's a whole different story. Anyway. My oldest boy, Ford, who is 4, is a tender and sensitive soul. Sure, he's all boy and loves to rough-house and crash into stuff, but he's truly a sweet sweet heart. Until it comes to his little brother and having to share with him. It turns him into a toy hoarding meanie pants. And it seriously tries my patience.
I've put myself in his shoes, and I get it. Until now, he has pretty much been able to play the way he wants. He tells me which train car he's going to be and he directs exactly where our train is stopping. Or he'll be the tractor and I'll be the trailer. Or he'll be Lightning McQueen (or Lightning DaQueen if you're Ford), and I'll be Mater.... You get the point. He's pretty much used to being in control and having it his way. Sweet as his tender little heart is, when you're used to being in control, it's just plain hard to give that up. Sigh...
Enter Finn, 18-month old little brother, who has a wonderful affinity for grabbing and crashing anything in his path. He LOOOOOOOVES his big brother, and of course, wants to do exactly what he sees his brother doing. So he grabs toys out of his hands to participate. Screaming, throwing of toys, and all-out mayhem ensues from both when Ford grabs the toy right back plus all others within Finn's reach. Does this sound like a scene that could play out at your house?
Please tell me it does so I don't feel like a failure.
I was getting fed up, because I vow I'm not going down that road of getting two of everything...then we never learn the lesson of sharing and we are broke on top of it!
So I got some great advice from my friends Cathy and Kristine, and it was so simple, yet so effective. I just had to share it! Here's what they said and what's been the only thing that's moved the meter in the right direction, I should add.
- Tell your little ones that today we are going to learn about self control. (I know that seems out of the blue. Read on.) It's important to God that we share, even if we don't want to, and it's really important for us to have self control so we can share without getting upset.
- Here's how it works. Mommy is going to practice having self control by being patient today. And you are going to practice having self control by choosing to share when your brother wants to play, and not getting upset about it. (Is your heart starting to beat fast, hoping that there is an end in sight to tantrums over sharing!!?? I know!! Mine was too! But no! Mask it! Where's your self control?! Gah. Just kidding. Heehee.)
- When Finn wants to play, I expect you to share. You can choose a toy to share that he likes. If you choose to be ugly, I'll take your toy away.
- Do it. The first time you see an offense, you have to take the toy away. You can't say, "Remember? I told you to share. Next time, I'm taking your toy away. " No sir! If you don't act on the very first offense, you've lost your authority and your effectiveness. Take it calmly and patiently, and in a gentle voice, say "Uh-oh. We didn't follow instructions and practice self control or share, so I have to take this toy. Let's try again with a new toy, and this time let's remember to use our self control to help us share without getting upset." At this point, especially at first, there may be a meltdown. You have to be patient and calm the whole time.
- If you are like me, at this point you are probably thinking, "Lady, you're crazy. These kids are 2, maybe 3 years old. Whatchoo be talkin'bout self control fo?" I know, right? It sounds ludicrous. But...just tryyyyyy it.
- At the next offense, keep enforcing - but using self control and gentleness yourself. You have to keep at it, even if you have to take away every single toy in the house.
- Repeat each day at play time until the message sinks in.
<<Note: if you get to the point where you've had to confiscate every flippin' toy, call me and I'll bring dinner and wine, because there's no doubt you'll need it. You're welcome.>>
The other thing is positive talk about how great they are playing together. Again, it sounds a little goofy, but just try it.
- Let's say I noticed Ford and Finn playing (read: coexisting) without incident.
- I take the opportunity to say something positive, like "Wow! You guys are playing so well. I really like how you are giving each other turns with the toys!"
- Kristine helped me take it a step further by suggesting I talk up their brotherly loooove. So in this scenario, I could say something like "You guys are playing so nicely. Isn't it so great God gave you each a brother to play with!" Or "Man, you guys are such great brothers. It's so fun to play together."
I am so impressed by how big of an impact this has had for Ford, especially the talking up what great fun it is to be friends with your brother. It's an answer to prayer, really, as I watch and see Ford learn to love and enjoy spending time with Finn. It's been great for Finn to because he's learning how positive relationships work.
Does anyone else have an awesome trick up their sleeve to try!? Lay it on me!
This didn't magically fix our sharing problem overnight, but I can tell you we have seen a drastic reduction in meltdowns about it. And my sanity has been restored. And I'm actually in a better mood throughout the day because when I don't get snippy with the boys, I have found that I actually keep my mood in a better place. Joy for everyone!