It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Enough is enough. At least for today.

Timmy arrived a few days ago with two toys clenched in his slender fists. In one hand a bulldozer that, with the press of a button, would chug its way industriously across the room. In the other, a perfectly respectable, but non-motorized loader.

Guess which was the preferred toy?

The children are allowed to bring toys from home. Toys from home are an even greater challenge for sharing than Mary’s toys, of course — which is exactly why they’re allowed to bring them! It does complicate my day, however.

We have some ground rules:

1. When someone walks in with a toy you may NOT swarm them.
1b. Or grab the toy.
1c. Or verbally grab the toy.
1d. Or shove an inferior toy at them and demand a trade.

In short, you must exercise … patience. PATIENCE??!? Good lord. And as if that isn’t bad enough…

2. The toy-owner does not have to share. However, if they don’t want to share, the toy is put away for the day. Toys which are not share-able (apart from very specific lovies) are not allowed at Mary’s.

3. The toy-owner gets to decide who plays with the toy first.

4. The toy-owner gets to set the timer for 2, 3, or 4 minutes. (We don’t always use the timer, but some children really like it.)

5. After everyone in the daycare has had one turn, the toy-owner gets it back.

6. After this, they are not obliged to share it any more, though they certainly can if they wish. Knowing they are assured of getting it back, and that they determine how long they are to be deprived of it, they very often do. This varies from child to child, of course.

They are empowered in that they get to choose who and how long. They may even choose not to share. What they may not choose is to wave the toy under the other children’s noses and refuse them a try.

Okay. So them’s the rules. And Timmy was reeeeasonably willing to share. He didn’t want the toys in his bucket all day, so he complied with the expectation that he share, but it was a bit of an effort. Every.Time.

For him, and, by extension, for me.

The next day, we got to practice some more! Because he brought them again! And the next day, MORE practice! And then even MORE!!

I am weary, boys and girls, weary, weary, because Timmy is not getting any better at this. Every day is a long, tedious series of reminders and reassurances and “when the timer dings, it will be your turn”, and “Anna hasn’t had a turn yet. In a minute, she will want one.” And more reassurances that yes, the toy will return to his anxious arms in just a minute.

My encouragement that sharing can be fun, because TWO people get to play instead of just ONE fall on deaf ears. My ideas that you can play WITH the other person playing with your toy is equally unwelcome.

So. Long days. Not frustrating, because I know it will come. Just Boooooring. The same thing, over and over and over again, waiting for comprehension to dawn, waiting for maturity, waiting for him to “get” it. I know, having done this with dozens of children down through the years, that he will get there, that it just takes time, that each of us grows into it in their own way.

I know all that.

But gracious, it can be tedious.

And today, when he brought those dratted things AGAIN? I waited till mummy had departed, and then with cheerful and implacable firmness, I put.them.away.

I’m NOT going to help Timmy learn to share his toys today. And do I feel any guilt about this? Not in the slightest.

See, I’m allowed to cut myself some slack once in a while. I’m allowed to say, “Not this, not today.” I’m allowed to give myself mental health breaks. And so are you. It’s a sound parental strategy called Conserving Your Energy. (Hoarding your Resources? Saving your Sanity? Stepping back from the Brink?)

They spent the morning playing; dancing Ring Around the Rosy; marching teeny plastic teddies through a castle; stomping about with blankets over their heads, pretending to be ghosts; building block towers and knocking them down; building long meandering tracks of Brio leading nowhere; playing Hop, Little Bunnies and Three Little Monkey; playing, laughing, playing, squabbling, playing, dancing, playing, playing, playing …

And not a single dozer in sight. Thank God.

March 4, 2008 - Posted by | behavioural stuff, manners, parenting, power struggle, socializing, Timmy | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Fabulous plan to teach sharing. I just always take the easy way out and don’t allow my kids to take toys out of the house. When I was teaching I didn’t allow them to bring toys in. I could reconsider however. I really do like your method. If I’m feeling patient that day.

    Comment by Jill | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m trying to think of a way to implement this at home (i.e. wherein the toddler must share space with his sisters and can’t *choose* to bring toys in as such). Although as the girls are still babies, this isn’t a big issue yet. My only rules at the moment are that he must take his toy back gently, and he must give them a “baby toy” to replace what he took away.

    Comment by Kat | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. I have the rule at home, too, that if Pumpkinpie has a toy she doesn’t want to share with a visiting child, she is not forced to do so, but then it goes away before the arrival or immediately upon a problem arising. There is no playing with it and then not letting the other child, and no playing with it in front of them and refusing to share. It’s just being a good host, after all, and a good friend.

    (And I totally agree that saving your sanity is worth it some days! Don’t we all know it’s in short supply on occasion.)

    Comment by kittenpie | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  4. Bravo! You SO did not need another day of that.

    Comment by chosha | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  5. i’m not even sure how i stumbled upon your blog tonight! lol! but i’m a daycare provider too … and i’m totally relating to you right now! the days are boring and tedious sometimes … i was just telling the kids that today. which being as they’re 9mth, 14mth, and 15 mth … they didn’t understand me at all. lol! i would have put those toys away too … i’m all for mental health breaks!

    Comment by laura vegas | March 12, 2008 | Reply


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