So, there I was at the playground on Saturday with the three younger kids (1.5, 4, 6). I asked 1.5 if he wanted to swing in the baby swings and he gave me his customary affirmative grunt. So we walked over to the swings, which were both occupied by babies whose mothers were immersed in conversation and occasionally giving them pushes.
I said to 1.5 loud enough for the two mothers to overhear: “When one of these babies is finished, then it’ll be our turn.” Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
After a few minutes of waiting, I noticed that there were a few kids waiting for the big-kid swings, one of which was occupied by4. “Aha!” I said to myself. “Here’s an opportunity for me to make sure 4 does the right thing while sending a hint at the same time.” So I called over to 4, “4, there are other kids waiting, and you need to give them a turn. Three more minutes, and then you need to get off.” She bargained for minutes and we settled on four more. A couple of minutes later (what, you think a four-year-old can tell time?), I told her it was time for her to get off, and she calmly stopped swinging, got off the swing, and gave it to one of the kids who was waiting.
The mothers were seemingly oblivious. I kept waiting, until several minutes later, one of the mothers turned to her baby in the swing and asked her if she wanted to get out. The baby made it clear that she was going to throw a fit if the mother took her out, at which point the mother turned to me and said, “Sorry, but what can I do? At this age, she knows what she wants, eh?”
I bit my tongue and choked back the answer I wanted to give: “Yes, lady, she knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it, too! When you give a kid that age a choice about whether to do the right thing or be selfish, guess what? She’s going to choose to be selfish! It’s your job as a parent to teach her that sometimes she has to share, not to let her walk all over you by threatening to tantrum every time you try to make her do something. How do you think she’s going to learn proper values if you don’t teach them to her?”
Instead of saying all that, I just smiled weakly and said nothing, and 1.5 and I walked away to find something else to do.
Oh, I figured the kids were too young — the message was really for the parents, but not really giving them the “out” of asking their kids.
It probably wouldn’t have worked, but maybe when the parent heard “it is time to let the next kid have a turn” it might have been harder to shrug and say “I tried.”
Both of the babies involved were significantly younger than mine, so I doubt either of them would have understood if I have suggested to them (as opposed to their parents) that it was time for someone else to have a turn.
And clearly I wasn’t being too subtle for at least one of the two women, since she did figure out what I was waiting for a turn and “try” (natch) to get her child to give me one.
Unfortunately, like most positive values, it is hard for sharing and turn-taking do become second nature for a child unless they are second nature for the child’s parents.
With kids, you need to be less subtle. It looks like that is true with parents too. I’ve told kids (who weren’t mine) that it is time to let another kid have a turn. I wonder what would have happened if you had simply told the child (in nice, speaking to child voice), that it is time to let another kid have a turn. Do you think Mommy would have gotten *that* hint and taken kid out?
(Obviously this would have had to have been *before* she asked the question — I try never to ask children what they want when they really shouldn’t have a choice…)