As a conscious parent, I often go about arranging play dates or taking my three year toddler to his friend’s place for the social skill building exercise. From teaching the essentials of sharing, playing together to even getting influenced by each other in the right way, as a parent I try and do my bit, to help my child attain that “social intelligence”.
However, all this goes for a toss when the vision hits a roadblock and instead of sharing, I end up seeing my child snatching, refusing to co-operate to even running away with the other kid’s toys.
The happy image of my boy, co-operating with the meanest of strangers, helping them transform and improving the world suddenly goes poof! That image dissolves and I end up seeing my saintly child behaving at his worst. He no longer remains that laughing Buddha, but transforms into a miniature version of the devil, hitting and pushing the kids, in order to reclaim his property!
And all this happens, while I continue to propagate the noble and novel concept of “Sharing is caring”! I realized there was something of a problem which was not helping the concept work. I realized it soon after with a reality check.
One day, I took my child to the play area in my society and sat lazily at the park bench. The play area was my kid’s favourite spot and he happily went to gallop on the wooden horse. I suddenly saw a shady looking man, inching closer. I froze.
“Is he a stalker or a molester or just a petty thief?”
My immediate reaction was to clutch my purse protectively and look around for someone, in case of help required.
The man inched closer. I could not help, but notice his shabby clothes and felt slightly uncomfortable. He had barely opened his mouth, when I stood up immediately, gave him a stern expression and walked away. I later saw him asking for a phone from other people. He cited that he needed to make a call.
I didn’t want to give him an impression that I had a phone so I immediately stuffed my phone in the bag and walked to my toddler, who was once again, refusing to wait for his turn on the horse with another kid. I picked him up and had started walking back home, when the shady looking man once again approached and broached the subject of me lending him the phone. Like a protective mother, I clutched my kid and my bag and distanced myself from him and said, “I don’t have it”.
My son, who I had assumed was a mute spectator till that time, looked at me annoyingly and said, “Mommy not good. Sharing is caring mamma”.
For the first time, I froze at the impact of my own valuable lesson. Anyway, I couldn’t help, but simply walked faster and didn’t stop to look for that man again.
I never realized the seriousness of those golden words. What my son pointed out was indeed right and wrong at the same time! Sharing is caring, but does it have to be sharing with everyone, including shady looking strangers or people, who you find suspicious? I mean, do we adults, do that? Who are we lying to?
I came back home, cleaned my kid up and sat quietly with a cup of strong tea. I needed the tea to bring myself back on track and for some serious thinking. I wanted to kick myself for teaching him something this stupid. He didn’t make me realize that the concept was wrong, he made me realize how unclear and unspecific I was while giving him that “Sharing” theory.
As a well-informed parent and also because I’m an avid reader, I often read journals and literature on child rearing, did and said everything that appeared practical and wise. However, one reality check and now, I cross-check and question every parental theory I read.
Soon after, I empathized with my kid, who didn’t share his toys and got defensive when someone threatening or damaging (according to him) tried to take his toys or other things. Maybe to him, those little kids were strangers or suspicious because they did not look familiar enough! As simple as that!
Just like adults, maybe the kids too are apprehensive about the new faces around them. Or it could even be with people, who they are not very familiar with. All this newness sometimes knocks off the kids and they don’t feel like sharing! The worse happens when amidst all this discomfort, we pressurize them to share and care!
It’s damaging and makes them feel even more vulnerable. Should they be sharing their toy or food with complete strangers? Absolutely not! What if they get the concept wrong and they end up extending help to people, who don’t mean well and land up in real serious trouble? They were sharing, yet they landed in trouble so who do they blame?
I realized that my child, who was not willing to part with his toys, was not lacking in manners, but sometimes the adults, who approached him asking him for things which was not even theirs, were lacking in the same. And I like a stupid, impractical mother was not doing anything to protect my boy, but rather subjecting him to utter discomfort! All this in the name of “sharing is caring”!
When I, as an adult, didn’t have the heart to part my property with a total stranger, how can I expect the same from a toddler?
We as parents often have a fantasy image of a saintly child, who is willingly generous and compassionate. In the process of teaching a child all these, we often forget to teach them to safeguard their own interests and wellbeing. Sometimes parents assume that telling them to safeguard their wellbeing is likely to turn them into selfish. Sometimes they believe it is not required as they will figure it out by themselves.
Do we ever question this to ourselves as to who will teach them the value of safeguarding their own interests if not us?
“Sharing is Caring”, but as long as the child doesn’t see the other one as threatening or total stranger. I mean, we as adults will not function like that, so high time we stop expecting our kids to function in such a way! So, a little tweak in this theory and maybe saying, “Sharing is caring with friends” could be better. This will help them stay focused with the concept and we too, as parents, will guide them to stay safe and safeguard their own wellbeing.
While it’s important to raise children with the values of compassion and generosity, it is equally important to create a sensible, practical child, even if it does mean making him a tad bit selfish, making him think about his safety. After all, it will go a long way in keeping a child’s well-being and security in place and our sanity in check.