What is sharing?
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Sharing is pleasantly giving one’s belongings to others. However, when a child is enforced to give up his or her possession, it is not true sharing but rather surrenders of property. When Miss Amy uses the office copy machine she is not required to disrupt her task and give up the copier to a coworker just because she has had it long enough. She may finish her task, even though the copier belongs to everyone in the building. Yet when John is using all of the blocks, engaged in building a small city, some teachers believe it is their duty to make him give up what is at that time his property, because it belongs to everyone in the class.
Rather than label John as “selfish” or “greedy,” the teacher should see his denial as assertive self-protection. Forcing him to give us the blocks will only make him want to defend future possessions more vigorously. Too often we take the side of the newcomer. Instead, we should give kids choices. Miss Amy should give John the choice to share or not. There are many other activity options for Miranda in a well-appointed early childhood education classroom.
A Better Way to Respond
Miss Amy can promote Miranda to solve her own problem by responding, “Miranda, you’d like some blocks. Ask John to please give you some as soon as he can.” If Miranda opposes this suggestion, Miss Amy can go with her and give the message to John herself on Miranda’s behalf, thereby modeling one method of problem solving. Both kids gain from this approach. John learns that he has power and control over the blocks, because he was playing with them first, and that his rights will be confined. He can be the one to decide when he is finished and ready to give up some blocks. When Miranda must wait, she learns to deal with dissatisfaction and irritation, two of life’s realities.
Miss Amy might also say, “Miranda, you want the blocks right now, but John is not ready to share them. I’ll help you find something else to do while you wait.” Such a statement makes Miranda feel supported and understood by the teacher, not neglected. When this strategy is used, kids often do not have to wait long. John, given the power of authority, is keen to exercise his right to decide who gets some of the blocks and when. Soon Miranda will hear him say, “Hey, Miranda! You can have some blocks. I don’t require them all.”
Kids Who Habitually Cannot Share rarely there are kids who head for the same material every day and decline ever to give it up. Several approaches may be suitable in this situation.
Consider why the kid must have this item. Kids who come from large families or poor homes may feel a strong need to claim something as their own. Perhaps it is an object or material the kid never has a chance to use outside of the classroom. A copy or equally attractive item can be provided for other kids to use. It is essential not to label this child as a “problem,” but to try to recognize the behavior and the child’s need to possess the object.
According to nursery teacher training in Mumbai every child care should establish a system for fair use of an item. Use a clock or timer to show kids they can use the preferential item for five minutes. A kid might be permitted to ride the popular tricycle four times around the concrete track and then give it to the next person. If a system such as this is in place from the beginning, no kid feels singled out.
Sharing is an important pro-social behavior that kids would do well to learn. We should encourage kids to share their toys as it is an important step in helping to create and maintain friendships.