The other day Myla Rae held out her toy to another toddler who curiously came by to look at what she was playing with. I remember when she was much younger and learning to walk, at that same park, Myla Rae toddled unsteadily to a 2 year old girl who was holding a pink ball. She then reached out to touch the ball, and the 2 year old pulled the ball away and to my surprise, she smacked Myla on the face. :( Her helper was quite a distance away, and I didn't feel it was my position to tell the child off etc. I just carried Myla off the lawn and told her it's ok, let's go play something else. Even though Myla didn't cry, it sucked to see my child get hit by a toddler twice her age. OMG it's just a ball, and a 1 year old, half your size, touched it, why do you have to feel so threatened and hit her?! So from then on, I knew I didn't want to raise her to be selfish, I want her to be kind and giving, especially to those who are smaller/ weaker.
The willingness to share is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness. It's not a bad thing in my books. But because Myla Rae is an only child, she doesn't go to any child care, and she has no similar aged cousins to play with in Singapore, she doesn't get much time interacting with other toddlers. So I have been trying to inculcate the habit of sharing, taking turns and not feeling threatened or throw a tantrum when something (like a toy) is taken away from her. It's going very well so far.
Here's what I've been doing.
Make Taking Turns Fun
You stack a block, then she stacks another on top of yours. You turn one page of her story book and she turns the other. For older toddlerss, you could also take turns putting puzzle pieces together. Try give-and-take games, too: you hug her teddy, then give it to her to hug and return to you. You kiss her teddy, then give it to her to kiss, and so on. Play pass the ball with other people in the family. She'll begin to learn that taking turns and sharing can be fun and that giving up her things doesn't mean she'll never get them back.
Myla doesn't understand everything I say yet, but she does understand tone. So when she makes an effort to share, I praise her, and my voice sounds encouraging, happy, joyful. And that lifts her up too, she knows she has done something good.
The best way to teach your child is to be what you want them to be, and they will observe and follow. You are their best role model. The best way for your child to learn generosity is to witness it. Show them that there's no need to get overly possessive. So share your ice cream with her. Offer her your sunglasses to wear, and ask if you can try on her hat. Have a laugh about it. Use the word share to describe what you're doing, and don't forget to teach her that intangibles (like feelings, ideas and stories) can be shared too. Most important, let her see you give and take, compromise and share with others.
Use a timer
This is a tip I picked up from a mummy friend who has been through it all. She used a timer (the cute kind people use in the kitchen which buzzes after 5 or 10 minutes). To get her children to share toys and play fair and learn to wait for their turn, she used this device. When it rings, it's one child’s turn to give a toy to her friend/sibling, then she gets it back once the timer rings again, and so on. They start learning that sharing their toy doesn't mean it's forever, and also if someone shares with them, they have to give it back after some time.
So yes, although I'm a bit apprehensive because the terrible twos are in the horizon (in 3 months!), I do feel that you can nurture their character from a young age, even from birth. You can teach your baby valuable emotional and social skills even before they start walking. And that will hopefully help you and your child navigate through life and its very new and trying experiences. For more info on how you can shape your child's learning and experiences, click here.