I wanted to take a moment to address the problem with sharing or forced sharing I should say. One thing which was unique in the Montessori classroom is the concept of respecting individual space. I find that out of the many sibling conflicts that arise, sharing is definitely on the top of this list. In a home setting, the scenario often looks something like this:
Billy is deeply concentrated playing with his legos.
Sally, who is younger, is intrigued by her big brother’s toys and wants to play too. She quickly plops down and starts to play.
“Hey!! Stop it Sally! Go away! These are my legos! I’m playing with those! MOM!!”
Mom arrives to the rescue..once again…but does she really rescue the situation? Let’s see..
“Mom, Sally is touching my legos and I want her to stop!! I’m playing with them!!”
So mom, patient and calm as usual because she wasn’t doing anything at the time (sarcasm inserted here) says,
“Now Billy, Sally is still young and she wants to play too. Let her have some of your legos to play with.”
“But I don’t WANT her to play with them. She puts them in her mouth and messes up what I’m making!”
So mom, with a caring and loving smile on her face (sarcasm again), says,
“Yes, but you need to remember to share.”
Oh, that dreaded word. Billy is now, of course, really upset. He probably is going to get even more irritated at his sister because she’s going to do exactly what he was complaining about, and little Sally is going to learn that she can go up to his space anytime she wants and..invade it.
So, I wanted to address this because:
- Children should certainly have a heart to share, and
- Children should respect each other’s space.
How did we approach this in the classroom?
First off, children had rugs or tables to do work on. The rug or table signified a working space to keep the mess isolated, and it also created a boundary from other children.
Children walking by who were intrigued by the project could stop and politely ask, “May I watch?” or “May I join you?” This gave the working children an opportunity to make a choice. Sometimes, we forget that children are deserving of the same space and respect that we as adults want for ourselves. If we are working on our own project, deeply concentrated on the work at hand, and someone walks over and immediately starts to “assist” us, tampering with our sense of order or our system of doing things, we get irritated. We wished they would have asked . Children have the same feelings and needs.
The other aspect is a learning one for the child who wants to participate. What are we teaching that child when we reinforce that they can jump into anything they want, as long as it’s not ours.
This child needs to be taught to ask, not intrude. It may require redirection on our part, but it still needs to happen. When this is taught, Billy appreciates his sister and harbors less resentment towards her because she respects his space, and he eventually learns to allow her to join him, especially after she matures and learns how to play without ruining his work.
What about taking turns for things that need to be shared?
One trick I recently learned from a friend of mine is to use the guess a number trick. She said that in situations, such as riding shot gun in a car, she would ask her kids to pick a number between 1 and 10. Quietly, being a God seeking woman, she would ask the Lord to help her choose a number. She really trusted the Lord to put the right number in her mind, and when the children said their number, the closest one would, of course, get shot gun, get the first turn, or whatever the situation called for. It eliminated a lot of strife because the children knew that they were submitting to the Lord and the “numbering of His steps” as the Bible says, rather than only their parent’s opinion alone.
I know that having children with siblings requires extra patience and conflict resolution. However, some conflicts can be avoided all together when we teach our children to respect each other’s space. Using tactics from my Part I Blog on Raising Disciples, you can role play and train your children (2 1/2 and up) in this area before you begin implementing this.