There are days that I really believe that the only thing my twins have ever shared was my womb. Even then it felt like they weren’t doing that very well. The fighting over toys, clothes, and my attention seems never ending. I hear myself saying, “Share with each other!” roughly a thousand times a day. Sharing is caring, damn it! But we must have done something right because on the playground, in school, and at friend’s houses’, they share. They share better than a lot of their peers. Some of this I attribute to the whole sharing the womb thing, but most of it has been creating an environment of sharing. We knew early on that surviving twin boys would require teaching the art of sharing and kindness.
Practice what we preach
Our children learn from watching us. If I am not willing to share my coffee with my husband, why should they share their most prized Matchbox car with their brother? Look, sharing my coffee is hard. I don’t like doing it, but I suppose my husband deserves the caffeine has much as I do. My husband and I also practice being kind to one another. We emphasize pleases and thank yous to each other and remind our children to do the same.
Utilize timed play
If the coveted Matchbox car is a source of arguing and fighting, we institute timed play, aka “taking turns”. One twin gets it for 20 minutes and then they trade. Usually the 20 minutes is enough time to lose interest in said Matchbox car. This also reinforces fair play too.
If you can’t play nice, no one plays with it
Sometimes, the toy needs to leave their sight. They get so focused on what the other is doing, no amount of timed play or practice can break them of the toy. That’s when it gets taken away. Usually followed by a time out. We use time outs to regroup and calm down. Yes, time outs are typically punishments, but they are more commonly used in our house to calmly discuss why we don’t behave, say, or do certain things. I thought for a long time that this was a futile practice until I heard my words (verbatim) come out of my son’s mouth.
If you don’t want to share it, don’t bring it
This is a very simple rule in our family: If you don’t want to share it, don’t bring it. When we head to the park their most favorite toys stay home. This prevents any fighting with the playground kids over sharing.
Respect others’ space and desire not to share
Every once and awhile we meet kids who are either taught they don’t need to share their toys or are still learning to share. I am often not sure which and, to be honest, I don’t really care. I do however, need to teach my kids how to respond to those children. I simply remind them of their special toys and ask them to go play with something or someone else. Usually this works. When it doesn’t, I take them from the situation. I am not here to judge and I have no intention of arguing over a shovel and pail at the playground. But it is a good reminder to my children what it feels like when others don’t want to share or include them.
Redirect, redirect, and then redirect some more
Half my day is putting fires out before the second alarm sounds. At four-years-old this isn’t a hard task. They have the attention spans of a wild pack of puppies. In fact, some days I feel like I may have raised a tiny pack of puppies.
Of all our rules, the first is most important. With that said, I will not share my bed, my blankets, or my shampoo. Conversely, they will not share their blankets, bed, or their food. I guess we all have a few things to work on.
We practice sharing because I want them to grow up into empathetic men who can see beyond their own reflection, and because I need my sanity now. Sure there are arguments made that I am not doing my kids any favors by teaching them socialism for preschoolers, and to those people I say, you’re welcome.
Laura Birks is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives in New Jersey with her twin boys, a dog, a couple of cats and a husband. When she’s not doling out medicine or cleaning up vomit, she is writing. Her house is in a constant state of disarray and the laundry is never put away. She likes to pretend she is superwoman but the truth is, she is a mere mortal with a messy house. Find her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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