We have been amazed at how much good parenting information is in children’s picture books – books that we hope you are reading everyday to the children in your lives – your own, your class, those you take care of. We will be pointing these parenting gems out to you so that every time you read one of our featured books to a child you will be reminded of the parent you want to be.
Featured Picture Book
KATIE AND THE PUPPY NEXT DOOR by John Himmelman
(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)
In KATIE AND THE PUPPY NEXT DOOR, Katie is a dog whose master gets a new neighbor – one that happens to have a lively puppy named Ruby. As the neighbors become friends, the pets, Katie and Ruby, are forced to be together. Katie is clearly told she is expected to be friendly and to share her things with Ruby. Ruby is a typical playful puppy and “helps herself to Katie’s things.” Katie, on the other hand is a typical dog and “She did not want to share her things. They were HER things.” Katie’s master pleaded with her, “Try to share your things. …. You should share your things with your friends. That’s what makes having friends fun.” When Ruby finally communicated that she wanted to play, Katie began to see she could actually have fun with Ruby. Katie ends up making friends with Ruby – so much so that she even decides to share her bed for an afternoon nap.”
There are two ways to think about sharing. One, it is polite and mannerly and children should be expected to do it even though it is very hard to give up things that are important to you for the sake of manners. This requires the child to decide, “I will be unhappy in order to be good.” I’m not sure this is how children learn to be generous, although they do probably learn to be polite in front of other people they want to impress.
The second way to think about sharing is in terms of generosity. This requires the child to decide, “I have enough and even sometimes more than enough, so I am willing to share.” To make that decision, children have to know the difference between what they need and what they want. Most of us have a hard time knowing what we need. And, most of us confuse needs and wants, but to be good at sharing, a person has to get that figured out.
I believe children can learn to willingly share when they know that their needs are important; that someone will help them get their needs met; and that they have a way to protect the things that are important to them. I also believe we can teach children the important life skills of politeness and manners while we are teaching them at the same time how to respectfully get their needs met. Politeness should not require that one child wins while another loses. We need to create win-win situations where the child sharing and the child receiving both get their needs met.
Here is one idea about creating a win-win playtime situation. Set up two play zones in your home. Make one a sharing play zone for children to play together. Make one a personal play zone for when your child wants to play alone or just wants to feel safe and peaceful with the things around him that are special to him. These zones do not have to be large. They both could be in one room with each zone set apart with a curtain or separated by how the furniture is arranged. Or, the personal zone might be in the child’s bedroom and the sharing zone in a family room or basement area.
Have your child separate his toys into the two zones. He needs to understand that the things in the sharing zone are available for him and other children to play with. On the other hand, those in the personal zone will be off limits to other children – to his brothers and sisters, to neighbors or to other guests that might come to visit. If your child is very young, you may need to help with the decisions about which toys to select for the personal zone. He may not realize what it will be like to have other children playing with his brand new or very special toy.
You will also need to help your child at any age understand when he has “enough” toys in the personal zone. You can set a limit for him. “You can have five toys in this zone.” Or maybe, “You can have however many toys will fit on this one shelf.” Give the child opportunities to switch out toys. There might be a day when a particular toy is of special interest to him. Also, every so often, have a clean up session when you make new decisions about what belongs in each zone based on changes in ages and interests.
If you are going somewhere else to play, select only toys from the sharing zone to take with you. Make sure the child understands that the rest of the toys in both zones will be left safely at home for him to play with when he returns. The one exception to this is that comfort items (for example, bear and blanket) will need to go with a child even though they are not for sharing. Agree ahead of time that if your child needs those items while you are away from home, he can have them while sitting with you. When he wants to be off playing with others, those items will stay safely with you.
Check out our daily DECIDE and PRACTICE posts for other ideas about how to encourage sharing during play times.
Having “Enough” Helps Sharing
To be good at sharing, I have to know what is “enough.” If I know when I have enough of what I need, I can also know when I have extra to share. When I share based on knowing I will still have enough of what I need, I share willingly and sharing is pleasant for both me and the receiver. Sharing under these conditions means I don’t resent having to share. I don’t keep tabs on what others owe me back. I don’t have a bad opinion about those who are in need.
It may seem somewhat odd, but it is children who are overindulged or have too much that have the most difficulty sharing. They don’t realize they have plenty to share. Instead when children have too much they actually learn to want more and more. They never believe they have enough to share.
Only by knowing what is enough can I know what I need. Only by knowing what is enough can I appreciate when I have more than enough (abundance) and decide to share. Only when I know that I have extra can I feel the joy of abundance. Only by knowing what is enough can I be aware of when I am overindulging myself or my children.
When people understand about “enough,” they appreciate what they have. When we help children learn to appreciate, they are also learning about “enough.” When they understand “enough,” they will know when their needs are met and they will be better able to share.
“Needs,” “wants “ and “enough” are all ideas we need to teach our children about. See our daily DECIDE and PRACTICE tips for ways to teach about these ideas.
Stay tuned for a special edition posting next week (August 8th) about the ultimate in sharing . . . bringing a new baby into the family.
Daily Parenting Tip
What kind of parent do you want to be? Or grandparent, teacher or caregiver?
A GREAT one!
You can be exactly that – just “Decide and Practice.”
DECIDE what you are going to think about the kids in your life.
DECIDE what you are going to feel about the kids in your life.
DECIDE how you are going to act with the kids in your life.
Decide: You can know the difference between what you need and what you want.
Practice: Today, think about the difference between your needs and your wants.
On one side of a piece of paper list needs. On the other side list wants.
Think carefully about the things listed as needs. Ask yourself why you need each thing. Be honest with yourself.
Needs are things that are necessary for a safe and healthy life.
Wants are things that add pleasure and interest to life.
If the needs items don’t measure up when you think about it, move them to wants.
Let us know which tips you like the best or any others you think of that you want to pass along to others.
Today’s Decide and Practice daily parenting tip was inspired by our featured picture book, KATIE AND THE PUPPY NEXT DOOR. Read the book to a child in your life each day as a reminder of what you are deciding and practicing that day.
Come back each day for another good parenting decision and how to practice it. (Each day’s activity will also be posted on Daily Parenting Tips page for easy access.)
Read All About It
GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
CONNECTIONS: THE TREADS THAT STRENGTHEN FAMILIES, Jean Illsley Clarke
*HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson and David Bredehofts
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A CHILD LIKE THIS? Larry Tobin
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