‘Tis the season – or is it? – to share toys and gifts
As parents, we want our children to be willing to share toys and playthings. We also want them to treasure what they have and take care of their possessions.
So, when the gift-opening is over and other kids want to play with their toys, what do we do? Do we insist that they share their toys, or do we allow them to decide who gets to play and how much they share?
Back to the basics
It is wisdom on the part of parents to teach their children responsibility in caring for their possessions. Whether it’s clothing, toys, or games, children need to learn how to care of their possessions. Our children must learn to pick up their toys and games when the game is done in order to take care of them. We say that when we own something, we are responsible for the item. It’s our job to take care of what is ours.
It is also our responsibility to take care of things we borrow from others. Whether it’s a library book, a game from a friend, or a video, we need to model care for the things of others. We must also teach our kids how to take care of what is not theirs.
The twist comes when a child wants to play with something not his, but we cannot trust him. When we fear he will not take care of a new toy or prized possession, what do we do? Our children need to understand the reasoning behind the restrictions or privileges.
If we’re honest, usually the reason our kids don’t want to share their toys is not because they are afraid they will become damaged. It is because they are selfish. Recognize the difference and work to help your child in this area.
At the same time, there are some things we do not expect our children (or ourselves) to share with others. We do not expect our teenager to share his car, phone, or camera with a sibling, even if they promise to care for the item. We recognize that some things are not meant to be shared.
Game-changer: the 3-day rule!
After the novelty of newness wears off, claiming what is ours is not usually as important as it was when the item was brand new. Recognize that and allow your child some space to enjoy his new game or toy.
Give a boundary to all kids involved. Come up with “rules” that work for everyone. Depending on personalities, you might need to lessen or extend a rule – but make sure the rule is to help your child enjoy his toy without others getting to play with it more than he does. The purpose is to share toys and not to protect his ego!
My sister Alice, a mom of four, had a rule at her house that worked. When a child received a new game or toy, he was entitled to sole ownership for three days. Nobody, but nobody could play with it, and no one could even ask permission to play with it until the three days were up!
Once the time limit was up, the child still “owned” the toy, but had to share it with his siblings if asked and within reason. Three days is a long time to a child. Being able to hoard the toy for himself for those days made him more willing to share toys later. A child could share toys during those three days if he desired, but it was not required. Alice’s daughter Christi says today that she often felt more generous during those three days because she knew she didn’t have to share. And, if someone else had a toy she wanted to play with, she knew she would get her chance when the three days were up.
To learn to share toys = preparation for life
A mature person shares his talents, abilities, and finances freely where it is appropriate and where he can. He knows how to do this, in part, because he had to share toys as a child. When a child learns to share toys at a young age, he becomes a mature adult. When a child never has to share toys, he becomes entrenched in selfishness. This is more than just a moment in a season, or a special time celebrating birthdays or Christmas. It’s about learning a way of life.
photo credits: pixabay.com and Victoria Borodivona via Pixabay.