“Share (verb): to use, participate in, enjoy, receive, etc., jointly.”
There you have it, my friends, the definition of the word “share” – a concept that’s apparently incomprehensible to my two preschoolers. Overnight, it seemed, grabbiness and a complete inability to jointly interact with anything swept over both of them like a wave in the early summer. The precipitating factor, I believe, was my daughter’s age and the interest she began to take items that had previously been primarily my son’s domain – and her will and expressive capacity to voice this interest. They take toys away from each other. They fight over the toys one has and the other wants (or worse, already took away). They taunt each other by parading around with a favorite toy belonging to the other, with the express purpose of upsetting the toy’s owner. Daily. It’s not pretty. And it can drive a mom to the brink.
Coming at the idea of sharing from a Christ-centered standpoint, in a way that is comprehensible to and consistent for young children, is not easy. The first question that almost any parent asks when she comes across two children fighting over a toy is, “Who had it first?” In a way, however, this misses the point because regardless of who had the toy first, both children are behaving selfishly. The child who had it first is hoarding the toy and displaying an ungenerous spirit; the child who wants or is seeking to take the toy is displaying grabbiness and a lack of respect for the child who’s playing with it. Both children’s hearts are hard; both children are sinning. And the goal, of course, is not simply to restore peace and make the fighting stop (though let’s be honest, that’s pretty high on us moms’ list); it’s to reach each child’s heart and train in righteousness.
In a sermon about child training, Mark Driscoll recounts an episode in which one of his sons (age 4 or so, I think) was taunting his sister and his wife asked, “What is your sin right now?”, to which he replied, “I have no love in my heart for my sister.” This, it seemed to me, would be a step in the right direction – if I could get my children to understand that when they are being grabby and selfish about toys, they are displaying a lack of love in their heart… That their actions are tied to their heart motives – ugly ones. So far we’re not there yet, at least not fully.
But even if they do get it – what’s the best way to address the lack of sharing that goes on? In Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Ginger Plowman says this:
“In the situation of siblings shared, I prayed and searched the Scriptures for how I might handle this type of conflict. I can tell you how we handle it in our home, but I can’t tell you that it is the only way or even the best way. For our individual family, the most practical way we have found is to address an issue of the heart, to simplify our method, and to promote peace. Both children are being selfish, but we still had to have a ‘plan of action’ that we could use every time this sort of situation occurred in order to promote peace. We wanted a solution that would be easy for them to understand and put into practice on their own. So, we came up with the rule that it is not only selfish but it is rude to take or even ask for something that someone else has until that person is obviously through with it…. So in these situations, I have found great opportunities to work on ‘putting off’ being selfish and ‘putting on’ an attitude of love and kindness (in the child who is taking away the other’s toy). …Believe me, the sin will eventually rear its ugly head in the other child, giving me the opportunity to work on the selfishness and rudeness that is bound up in his heart (at that time).” [Her reference here is to Eph 4:22-25]
This makes sense to me, but I confess that I have no system or structure yet to my efforts to address grabbiness and lack of sharing in my children… except to reprimand, make give back and apologize, discipline as necessary. Efforts to incorporate the theology of sharing, minimal as they have been, have so far come across forced and as a lecture.
Any input or words of wisdom from moms with more experience than me?