Parenting An Only Child: Can An Only Child Learn To Share?

Suzette Hinton
 


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Who was it that decided that only children are spoiled and selfish? Just because a child comes from a big family doesn’t make him a great human being. I’ve met some pretty bratty kids who had siblings. I remember telling people that I had one child. They cautioned me to consider having another child, “to teach him how to share. ” Or they responded, “I bet he's spoiled. "

I agree that children have to be taught to share. Self-preservation is an innate survival instinct. However, teaching a child to share is not synonymous with force. When a child feels forced, bullied or shamed into sharing, they are robbed of its truest essence. True sharing comes from the heart. It is an extension of us in honoring and esteeming ways. Regardless to whether you have one child or ten, you want your child to be considerate of others.

Most of my recollections of sharing stemmed from family and friend get-togethers. Without fail, a child would come into the presence of the adults crying or angry because he wanted to play with something that belonged to another child. With complete disregard of the child’s feelings, an adult would say “let them play with your toy. ” The adults would feel that they had resolved the issue and prided themselves on teaching the children to share. But if you ever listened in on the conversation among the children, you’d know different. Talk about dissension in the ranks. A whole lot of pouting, taunting and arguing were going on behind closed doors.

So what does it mean to share? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sharing has four different meanings: (1) to divide and distribute proportionately; (2) to partake of, use, experience, occupy or enjoy with others; (3) to grant or give a share in and (4) to tell (as thoughts, feelings or experiences) to others.

So, how can we encourage genuine sharing? Positive reinforcement is a very effective teacher. Let’s say your young child and her little buddy are playing. Your child becomes upset when her buddy grabs at her toy. Holler, holler. Scream, scream. Let’s say her buddy offers the toy back to your child. If her buddy gets hugs and kisses or some meaningful reward, your little one is not going to want to be left out. More times than not, she’ll put two and two together and get something to share.

Actions speak louder than words. Model the behaviors you wish your child to emulate. In order for your child to learn to share, however, your actions have to be genuine. Let your child observe your gratitude and enjoyment when you share something with others and when others share with you. Nine times out of 10, your child will want to experience that kind of joy.

A word of caution, don’t make the mistake that so many parents make. A young child wanders into the room where his parent is enjoying the company of other adult friends. The child offers the parent an item. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to reinforce sharing, the parent sees the child’s behavior as disruptive and sends him back into the room with the other children. When the child resists, the parent calls for an older child to come and get the child. You don't want the child to feel that what he has to offer is rejected.

Consistency is key. Though the timing might not be best, don’t discount the gift of the moment. Understand that your child is attempting to share with you and invite EVERYONE to praise the child. This teaches your child to associate sharing with attention, warmth and love.

Contrary to popular belief, giving your child attention does not spoil your child. Healthy attention validates your child’s worth and esteem. Likewise, if your words and actions affirm your child, it increases the likelihood that he will esteem others. Your child will not see people as objects but as worthwhile human beings.

In actuality, I believe that “spoiled brats" are the ones who are or have been deprived or neglected. I don't believe these kids are bad but merely a reflection of the environment they live in. Though they may wear designer clothes and never hear the words “no", their hearts have been deprived the one thing they yearn for more than anything - the attention of their parents. Their souls are impoverished. Instead of the parent showing up in the child’s life, he or she sends a representative in the form of some conciliatory act. In my neighborhood, we call it punking out.

If you have one child, you need not worry about spoiling that child. Further, your son or daughter doesn’t require siblings in order to learn to share. It is his esteem of himself and others that evokes love for his fellow man and the true spirit of sharing. And there's no greater influencer than his parent.

Suzette R. Hinton, SAC-I, Certified Life and Mentor Coach, Counselor and Mother. Graduate of CANA, Inc. (http://www.CoachingInstituteofNorthAmerica.com ) and Founder of Purposeful Connections (http://www.purposefulconnections.com ). Suzette believes that purpose is not only a destination but it is the energy that pushes us toward its fulfillment.

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