As a father, I confess that I have inadvertently ended up using a phrase that already made me angry before having children: “You have to learn to share.” With my first daughter I used her very little, because at home she had enough toys and no competition that wanted to take them away. And besides, most of her friends were just as generous, generous, or absent-minded, and there was rarely any conflict, unless it involved her favorite toys. But over time I saw three recurring conflictive situations in which I or other adults saw ourselves releasing the little phrase to avoid greater evils.
The most complicated is lived in the park, with children from the class or with strangers, where moments of paternal geopolitical tension always appear. We invest time, money and space in carrying the typical bag of toys (plastic and cheap, but our toys, in short). And it didn’t take long for the vultures to appear. Those feral, smart children, with a wild edge, who come to the novelty of others with the desire of the crazy people who fight with the children for free candy in the Three Kings procession.
There are some who stare from nearby, like a vampire waiting to be invited to enter. But the vast majority reach out without hesitation to take the toys away, no matter what. The most normal thing is that then a struggle occurs, where your creature says “it’s mine, it’s mine” at the same time. Gollum and the other make more force, showing that private property matters very little to him when it is not his own. And the most normal thing is also that he ends up crying yours, because he is more civilized and educated, and because he has parents who take care of bringing him toys to the park and he has not had to develop criminal attitudes to get them.
They are small children, of course; they are learning, okay; they do it without bad intention, hopefully so. But at some point, limits will have to be set so that they don’t end up getting used to the fact that the law of the strongest always triumphs.
In situations like this, where you know that a child will end up bruised, you can invoke the spell “you have to learn to share”. The little phrase can calm the atmosphere and break up the fight, even if it rebounds and ends up saddening your creature. Because, deep down, you are telling him that what is his is not his, and that an unknown aggressor has the same priority as your own blood.
I would not leave my iPhone or a book or my bottle of water to a stranger, and for my children their three-euro plastic toys are just as valuable. But many of us are forced to make this commitment to peace because you are not going to take your son from the park, it is not his fault, nor, in principle, are you going to yell at another child or his parents (even if you want to).
Another disturbing scenario occurs when you are at home and the ones who want something at all costs are the guests (the children of friends, who may have a more or less sporadic relationship with your children, or their own classmates, who see them every day and it was they who told them to play at home).
And finally, the third classic of possession and fight: when you have more than one child, it is your offspring who fight fiercely for toys that they normally ignore completely. Sometimes the little one wants something from the older one, which she is currently using, or worse, the two argue over something that belongs to the house, shouting “it’s mine, it’s mine!”. Kicks and scratches between siblings are less serious in the family penal code, but they hurt just the same, so it’s always time to de-escalate the situation. If you always ask them to share, the older ones may believe that we only have eyes for the little ones and that their belongings are basically a leasing familiar. And if you decide as a judge that the owner is the only one who uses it, in the end you are harming the little ones, who inherit almost everything. there is not a win-winjust anger sharing and damage control, until one or both of them cry and then they blow off steam and forget about it.
No matter how much tension is experienced in any of these three cases, you should not be forced to share, and even less before the age of four or five. Because until that age they don’t understand that the situation will last five minutes, and they imagine that they are being robbed forever.
Experts recommend little intervention, unless the violence is escalating like any other day on Twitter. We can divert attention from the precious toy to others who are free, propose to play in a group with the object of desire or start another activity that they feel like and leads them to forget about the conflict. But we must respect the decision of our children, especially in the face of aggressive strangers.
In the end, I have two quick and practical tactics when it comes to family or friends: be Solomonic and distribute the object among the children, so that they play in alternate rounds, or directly requisition the problematic object with the phrase “I paid for this, so it’s mine.” They’re still pissed off the same, but at least they don’t fight each other anymore.
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