I have a few interesting sharing interactions in the toddler class to share with you. During all these interactions, I was nearby. I narrated and made sure the children stayed safe, but other than that I let them find solutions to the conflicts on their own. As you will see, more assistance was not really necessary.
Lewis* had a small canvas bag, and Sonya wanted it. After a moment or two of tugging, Sonya had the bag. Sonya moved away and Lewis looked sad. He watched Sonya holding the bag for a few moments, and when Sonya put the bag down, Lewis retrieved it.
A little later, Shawn was holding a yellow egg shaker and a yellow egg-shaped tennis ball. Mina indicated with gestures and tugging that she wanted the toys. Shawn hung on and moved away. A few minutes later, Shawn went over to where Mina was sitting with her mother and handed her the toys.
Near the end of class, Mercedes was very invested in moving two large foam body-rollers over to her mother. It was a difficult, frustrating task partly because the rollers are quite unwieldy, and partly because Luca was hanging on tightly to the rollers. It wasn’t clear to me if Luca was trying to hold onto the roller for himself, or if he wanted to help Mercedes. I reflected what I thought I saw. After a few minutes Mercedes succeeded in bringing the rollers to her mother and both children moved on to something else.
We adults can get pretty invested in sharing conflicts. We might think we have the right answer, or that a rule like “Who Had It First” can apply to all situations. If we give the kids room to work out conflicts on their own, they show us that all conflicts have many solutions. Sometimes you wait your turn. Sometimes you give away the thing you had previously wanted. Sometimes you can’t tell what each other wants, but you end up getting things done anyways. Sometimes you just need to move on.
It is futile to look for our children to be “balanced” in sharing interactions (giving as often as they take). Adults don’t work like that either. Some people are very determined and driven to accomplish their own goals. Some people are more interested in keeping the peace and helping others. All these strategies are valid and useful in our world.
*Children's names have been changed to protect privacy.