Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Which will make it totally obvious that I am not a team player

Playground negotiation stresses me out. I hate it.

There. I've said it.

It stresses me out to be all, OK, sweetie you are having a turn, and then in five minutes this other kid we've never seen before who we know wants your truck because he's pulling on one end and won't let go can take a turn, just because he's asking for it.

Sometimes the parent of the aggressor get involved and back their kid off. This is what I do if it's my kid, because sometimes it is. But when they do nothing, then really I want to say, "Listen, kid we don't know, let go of the fucking truck. My kid is playing with it. There are 45 other options in the sandbox. Pick one and let my kid play."

Now that I'm writing this out, maybe I should say a gentler version of that? You know, without the fuck word and the vitriol?

I used to jump in immediately but now I try to hang back a bit to see if the kids will sort it out. Because it's a skill, right, learning to solve conflict? But Jordan, strong as he is, is prone to bursting into tears or crying and screaming about a toy being taken. So then I feel like I have to do something.

I want to be all, "You're big and strong! Defend your toy if you want to! It's your toy!" I know he's never going to be a bully. But he doesn't know how to defend himself. We've started karate to help build self-esteem and skills.

But you know, I was thinking about how we make our kids do something that we do not do as adults.

I mean, if I were waiting on the Metro platform listening to music on my phone and a stranger came over and wanted to use it, I wouldn't be all, "Well, I'm having a turn now, but in a couple minutes you can have a turn."

Right? You're on the bus reading a book and your seat-mate wants it. Do you read a couple more pages and then hand it over in the interest of cooperation? No.

If I know you and like you, I'll happily give you a turn with whatever. Or share my snacks. Anything. In fact, if I've just met you but I like you immediately, I'll do the same.

But otherwise? No.

However, we're telling our kids that they need to share with humans they do not know. Be nice. Share. Give them a turn. Some complete little stranger has come along and asked for your stuff, and in five minutes you need to let them use it.



  1. So, this is a thing that I've thought about, actually. As someone who grew up without any idea how to stand up for myself and who has spent many dollars on therapy learning that lesson as an adult, I think that it's okay to teach your kid that they don't have to share. Ideally, once they're old enough to understand, you could say that it is NICE to share, and that playing together can be fun, but that they don't have to.

    And I'd like to think that I'd do that regardless of the vile looks being sent my way by other parents, but as I've said, I'm not very good at standing up for myself.

    1. You are always such a voice of reason! I grew up without a tremendous amount of self-worth, and it took me a longlonglong time to learn to stand up for myself. I too have spent many dollars on therapy - best spending of my dollars ever - and now I think I do a pretty decent job of it. And I can stand up for my loved ones without hesitation and in fact quite firmly.

      So maybe it would work for me to say that they don't HAVE to share with kids they don't know, but it is NICE to. It will make them feel good. That idea sits well with me. And I will try not to care about stinkeye from other parents.

  2. I think I learned to stand up for myself at a young age, mainly through sports and I've always been sensitive to fairness so I naturally chimed in when things weren't fair. At the same time, I was the youngest of 5 and my biggest worry was being left out, too little or left behind. I wanted to be where my siblings or friends were and was just happy to be included so I didn't really care about my truck. I think I had 5 possessions total that were mine and not passed down so I had a loose sense of "mine".

    I think what I'm trying to say is, if one doesn't like the topic or focus - change the conversation, change the focus. Encouraging sharing, I think, is about getting along with others and making new friends. But there are other ways to achieve that - sharing isn't the only way. Agree it's totally reasonable to see sharing as nice but not necessary. Happy playground time!

    1. I did not grow up playing team sports, or really any sports. I started running and lifting weights in high school. Both good sports for an introvert, but not so much on the teaching of team skills.

      You are totally right. I need to change how I look at this.

  3. I don't make my kids share their toys at a playground. I think it's bullshit. It's their toy, they can do what they want with it. I explain that sharing can be nice because it's a way to make friends and perhaps others will share with them in return, but it's up to them. If someone came up to me and demanded to use my Kindle or something when I was in public, I would be appalled if I were forced to do so, so I think it's unreasonable to expect it of my kids.

    1. I love how you don't mince words. "I think it's bullshit." Quite right! I think this is right, and it's a conclusion I'm just now coming to.

      My friend Rachel commented on FB that she says, "Aw, I'm sorry, Kid I Don't Know, this truck is Joe's. He brought it from home just so he could play with it here." I am going to start saying some version of that.

  4. I have a firm rule that no personal toys go into public if he doesn't want to share them. I loathe forced sharing, and I loathe kid fights over toys. He knows if he wants to bring his shovel, it's fair game *if* he drops it. Otherwise, if he's playing with it, I let the kids work it out. If they don't, I say something like "He's playing with it. If he wants to share later, you can play with it. If he doesn't, that's okay too." Forced sharing sucks, but so does being selfish with something you can easily part with for a few minutes to make someone else happy. No, you can't take a stranger's Kindle, but you can borrow their pen.

  5. Late to the conversation as ever, I have to add my two cents… (of course), I think sharing is important and a given if you have a friend over or if the kids are using toys that belong to everyone, like some parks have shovels and buckets in the sandboxes here, those are for everyone so if a kid wants the shovel my kid's using I'll give him a time limit of like 2 minutes if he's been using it a while or 5 if he just got it and then he passes it on. But I don't personally believe there is any need for him to share his digger that he brought from home at the park. The same way I don't expect another kid to share his own toy with my kid. My kids have the option of bringing their toys out and they have the option of not sharing if they want to quietly play with their own toy somewhere. I also think that instead of teaching all kids that they have to share their things it's just as valid to teach our kids not to expect to play with other kids' toys, they can ask the owner of the toy if they can play together and if they can't well, tough, go do something else. Also, I don't think that for a child their toy is the same as a pen is to an adult or even a kindle for that matter, it's so much more important than that in the moment when they are playing with it, it's like me asking to borrow your husband, and not when you hate him and want him out of your hair either, but when you want him to kill a spider for you, at the moment he's most vital, in swoops a relative stranger (me) and says here, I'm just going to take nick for a bit, I'll give hime back when I'm done playing. I dare you not to burst into tears!


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