She is very clear that her toys are hers and shows clear distress when others, even her regular playmates reach for them. Even if the toy isn't actually hers but she has played with it and she then sees another child approach she will waddle-run towards them shouting 'LaLi' at the top of her little lungs. She has perfected the wounded soul scrunch of the face and the desperate plea-like tone of voice. I find it absolutely heartbreaking to witness, but I also find it terrifying. Not just because of the upset that it causes her, but because I fear that I am somehow raising a bossy, selfish, spoilt, social outcast.
Sharing, to me, is a vital social skill. To be able to share exhibits, in my mind, the capacity for generosity and empathy. I have always believed that those who cannot share are selfish, uncaring and quite frankly if you're not going to offer me one of your Maltesers, I would rather not be your friend.
But Lena is a toddler and as yet she still has so much to learn. It isn't that she is actively choosing not to share but it is that she doesn't yet understand the concept. She has only just comprehended that her toys are hers, that mummy's purse is hers and that Daddy's cup is his. She may understand the concept of belonging to but she doesn't yet understand that just because it isn't in her physical possession, it doesn't stop being hers. It isn't as simple as learning to share it's about understanding that if I cuddle another child it doesn't mean that I am not her mummy. It isn't about her confidence and security in our relationship but it is a cognitive milestone she is yet to achieve.
What I must learn to do is to not force the issue. My instinct is to take the toy from Lena's hand, immediately offer it to another child, explaining to my little red head that we are sharing. But to her this is completely traumatic. Instead I am teaching myself to do the below:
1. Leading by example - I try and share with her as much as possible. The opportunity mainly arises with food but I also try and share, pointing out the action to her, when I am busy doing certain activities like applying my morning make up or using a pen to write down notes or lists.
2. Praising others - Daddy gets an awful lot of vocal praising for anything that remotely looks like sharing.
3. Clarify the term - I try and ask her to 'take turns' instead of share. I think that this is an easier concept for her to understand rather than the blanket term share.
4. Praise her proto-sharing - as a phrase this was new to me. As an action it often looks quite selfish; she happily wafts a toy under the nose of another child without letting go and then snatches it back towards her tummy. Apparently, this is the first step in her actually sharing during play with another child.