On Saturday we attended an event at Owen’s daycare. It was a “Volunteer Fair”, intended to be a fun day with various activities to help kids learn about serving others and raising money and goods for charity. There were stations in each classroom where you could make a little craft, like cat toys and dog treats for the Humane Society, friendship bracelets for children in the hospital, food bags with non-perishable foods for homeless families, etc. Parents volunteered their time at each of the stations and donated the materials needed. Even though Owen is a bit young to understand the idea of charity, we had a really fun time.
Once we had exceeded the maximum attention span of our active toddler, we went to the playground, which was crawling with kids of all ages. Owen was the youngest, but he’s such a mobile little climber that he held his own. He got knocked over by big kids playing tag and got right back up. He ran alongside other kids totally oblivious to the games being played over his head. He was in heaven.
After awhile he parked himself in the sandbox where another older girl was playing. I’m terrible at guessing kids’ ages, but I would bet this girl was 6 or 7. She was filling a truck with sand and Owen wanted to see what she was doing. He toddled over and she immediately said, “No no no!”. I redirected Owen and explained (loudly) that the girl was working on something and he could play over here. Little by little he drifted back over into her space. I played referee for a few minutes, making sure he didn’t grab her toy (since he doesn’t know any better and she seemed like she was already annoyed that he was there). Then I decided to stop micromanaging and let kids be kids.
Owen walked up to touch her shovel and she pushed him away. Hard. So he fell into the sand. He didn’t really care (though he seemed a bit surprised), but I felt my stomach tighten and my pulse quicken. I helped Owen up and said, “Please be gentle. He’s just a little baby. I know you didn’t want him touching that shovel, but pushing is not the right response.” The girl glared at me.
I felt embarrassed for “reprimanding” someone else’s child. I tried to ask myself how would I feel if someone did that to Owen? Well, in this case, I probably would have appreciated it (since what she did wasn’t nice, and I responded calmly and gently). But still, it felt weird. I looked around for her parent or guardian, but no one was around.
One other time in a Music Together class, a little boy several years older than Owen pushed him so hard he fell down and hit his head on the wall. Though he wasn’t hurt, the other mother and I both saw it happen, and it wasn’t an accident. I sort of said, “Oh, it’s ok, no big deal”, but the other mother used it as an opportunity to teach her child that pushing is not ok. Thankfully I didn’t have to be the meanie there.
I can guarantee you he won’t always be on the victim side, and I dread the day that he pushes another kid down with bad intentions.
When Owen is playing with other toddlers in his age group, I tend not to intervene unless someone is going to be hurt. They don’t really push each other meanly (the kid was in their way, end of story), or care deeply about snatched toys (at least not in daycare!). They are all kind of on an even playing field. But perhaps this is the time to be setting the groundwork for sharing and being nice to others and not pushing. It’s a tough call for me between teaching lessons and letting them be kids.
I recently read an article about NOT teaching our kids to share (sorry, I can’t find the link at the moment). The idea was that giving another kid the toy you are playing with because your parent demands it of you is not a fair thing to ask a child to do. While we should be teaching the concept of taking turns and being nice to others, the article talked about how sharing is a concept that is often taught to children by essentially saying “I am going to make you 100% give up what you want to do because of someone else, and that is what sharing looks like”. Many parents don’t teach compromise or empathy, they teach a blanket concept of sharing (give Sally that toy, even though you were playing with it) that seems far from fair or even necessary in most situations. It’s not a wonder it’s a hard lesson for kids to learn. This makes a lot of sense to me and made me think carefully about what lessons we are really teaching when we say “You MUST share”. In that regard, I would rather teach Owen to take turns nicely (even when he doesn’t want to) and to realize how his actions make other people feel.
Still, I don’t want to be the only parent out there who doesn’t teach their kid to share.
What is your response when another kid does something hurtful or mean to your child? What about when your kid does something hurtful or mean to another child? Do you demand “sharing”?
Do you think it’s ok to speak to someone else’s child if their parent is not around and the child does something like push another child? While it felt very awkward on the playground on Saturday, it’s also probably what their teacher would have done if that had happened during school hours.