Friday, January 9, 2009

how to balance?

I have been grappling a bit with a small parenting dilemma. I think it is obviously pretty important to teach my kids to share. Lately, however, I have been wondering if I am going overboard. This last week, I have noticed that while Danny is usually pretty good about sharing with his sister--he usually offers her parts of his treats from school with no prompting from me and will share his toys, sometimes after I force him to, but other times willingly--he has been resistant to playing with Charlotte after school. At first, I thought it was a sharing issue. He didn't want to share his favorite cars with his sister, so Bil and I have been pushing him to share, sometimes resorting to timeouts, etc.

Last night, though, I realized that I think at times Danny just wants to play all by himself, unmolested by his sister. It makes sense. He goes to school all day where he is expected to interact with other kids and share and be polite. After a full day of forced socialization, I would want to play all by myself, too.

So, the question is, how do I balance Danny's need for privacy and isolation and Charlotte's desire to play with her big brother and his favorite toys? When do I force him to share the toys (and thus, interact) with his sister and when do I make Charlotte leave him alone?

The problem here is that in both scenarios, one of the kids is unhappy, which means I get to hear at least one of them screeching and complaining. Something I tend to avoid if possible. But, this is also an opportunity for both the kids to learn some lessons, like respect of others' boundaries and sharing even when it is uncomfortable. I just don't know exactly how to decide when and how to help each child meet his/her needs.

Have any of you dealt with this? Any good suggestions?


a Tonggu Momma said...

I obviously have no advice, but I wanted to share that my sister deals with this all the time with her four (two boys, ages 8 and 11; two girls, ages 3 and 9 months). She loves the book "Siblings Without Rivalry." I've never read it, but I've heard good things. Do you know it?

beckbot said...

I usually end up playing with the rebuffed sibling. Not a perfect solution, because I have to do some persuading to make it happen and take time away from making dinner, etc. I usually set the timer (I am a timer Nazi, yes I am) and tell the older brother he has 30 minutes of alone time and then he has to be social again.

Anonymous said...

Your kids are each about a year older than my two kids, so I have a sense that this is what is on the horizon. Ess, having just turned 2, still does more parallel play than playing together. Chee definitely likes her play-alone time, and she gets plenty of it. Ess will play with her own toys alongside her.

If anything Chee is the one seeking Ess out to play.

I imagine in the next year though that there will come a time that Ess will want to play WITH Chee much more, and Chee will be wanting her alone time.

All that to say, no advice - just let me know what you figure out. LOL


lonestar said...

As far as sharing, we typically don't "force" our boys to share. I have been particularly sensitive to this issue since our oldest boys are twins and tend to end up sharing a LOT just naturally, we don't want them to feel like they have to share everything. We encourage them to ask nicely (don't just grab something) and we encourage them to share, but we tell them it's ok to say no (nicely) if they don't want to share. We often suggest making a trade (if you want to play with x, why don't you give him y). We also remind them that their brothers also have the option of saying no when they ask them to share... it gives them the power to make a choice, has taught them some good negotiation skills, keeps us out of the middle of it, and the vast majority of the time they are able to work something out. If it starts to get out of hand we tell them the toy in question is getting them in trouble and needs to take a break (then we take it away for a while). Sometimes that is enough to encourage them to make a deal, sometimes it just makes them mad...

As far as playing together, that one is a little harder. I think everyone needs their space sometimes, but it can be hard to explain that to a brother that really wants to play together.


Anonymous said...

The kids have their special toys they don't have to share.
N can be the same way too. I usually spend time with M, let N play for awhile. Then I tell M "Go up to brother and ask if you can play with him." N never turns her down :)

Kim said...

Is it just about wanting to play with his cars? Or is it more about wanting to play with him? If it's just the toys then I would suggest buying her a couple of cars of her own. If it's wanting time with brother than maybe tell them that for 15 minutes they can play together and then they can get some time to play alone. Make a big deal out of getting some alone time to C and make her think it's a wonderful, special thing. Then she might be more willing to leave D be on his own.

I don't think it's necessary to make kids share. Encourage yes, but not force. If forced I think they are more likely to resent sharing and not ever learn to do it naturally on their own.