Saturday, August 05, 2006

Development Question, Attempt #2

Blogger ate my post yesterday, so lest any of you think that Brian and Jenny are suffering from severe delusions (see the comments on the previous post), I'll attempt to recreate it.

I tend to be a gal who educates myself on a need-to-know basis, so I don't know a whole lot about child development past the age of oh, say, 9 months. So I have a question for those of you who are or have been parents of three-year-olds.

Do three-year-olds share?

I'll tell you why I ask. Yesterday Joshua and I went to our first SAHMs get together (that I found on Meetup, a handy little site). It was a lovely time--lots of fun moms, lots of fun kids--and it was at a UMC that I hadn't heard of before but that we will definitely be visiting on an upcoming Sunday. The posting said that we were to bring our kids, toys for our kids, and snacks for our kids. Since we're not exactly snackers yet, I loaded up the diaper bag with favorite toys and we were on our way. I discovered after a few minutes that the ethos was such that everyone brought lots of toys and if there was a unclaimed toy sitting around, it was fair game. Joshua was uncharacteristically intimidated for a few moments, but as soon as he figured out what was going on he climbed out of my lap and started to explore. I pulled his blocks out of my bag and immediately a three-year-old, we'll call him Aaron, gathered up every single block (even taking a few from Joshua's hand) and absconded with them. He didn't go far, so Joshua crawled over to play with them, too. But Aaron pulled the Heisman on him, pushing him back with one hand so that Joshua couldn't get to his own stuff. Fine, I thought. I have other toys! So I pulled out Joshua's measuring spoons (they're fun if you hold on to one and sling the other ones around). No sooner had Joshua taken them from me than Aaron dropped the blocks, plucked the spoons from Joshua's hand, and took them to the other side of the room. Of course, as soon as Joshua went for the blocks again, there was Aaron, ensuring that he couldn't get to them.

Aaron's mom seemed genuinely concerned about Aaron's behavior, even going so far as to tell him that if he couldn't share then they were going home. But at the same time, she was also tending to her five-month-old (which leads me to believe that Aaron may be having some issues with brand new baby sister). So he was obviously familiar with the concept of sharing, and I'm pretty sure he had at least a few months of being three under his belt, so I'm not sure what was going on.

I was a little nervous around him, though. At one point, while Aaron was playing with Joshua's blocks, Joshua engaged in the Stability Test (pushing on an object to see if it's stable enough for him to pull himself up on) along with the Show of Strength ("Look how strong I am! I can push on this and make it move!") on Aaron's back. I quickly pulled Joshua away, but his mother insisted that such wasn't necessary as "it'll be fine. He's used to it." But Aaron's other impulse issues led me to believe that it wasn't a mistake to think that he might just throw an elbow. So Joshua and I moved to a safer place.

In the previous iteration of this post, my question was, Do three-year-olds-share? The answer is that, obviously this one doesn't, so I'll rephrase.

Is it developmentally appropriate for three-year-olds to share?

Thanks to Brian and Jenny for answers already posted.


Rightthinker said...

I think it is developmentally appropriate for three-year-olds to do whatever they are allowed and taught to do!

Seriously, all three-year-olds are at an age where they are dealing in established situations with established rules. Kids all have their uncharacteristic moments of acting differently than you have taught them, and that requires immediate discipline on the part of the parent.

Willingful sharing or absolute rejection of that idea is influenced by the rules of the home, as well as the reaction of the parent when this activity occurs outside of the home.

With four kids and the younger three being completely piggy-backed in age, sharing takes constant work. If my kids behaved in that aggressive and inappropriate manner with another child, they would all be packed up in the car to go home while the other children in the playgroup got to stay for fun-other kids in tow or not.

Sometimes women get overwhelmed with more than one child in tow, and tend to just expect understanding from other parents in that regard. Understanding amongst mothers is very nice-until the "naughty one" is in a place to cause problems with another.

My solution for her would be to work with her child constantly on sharing, (ask a friend with a child to come over and help you teach your child how to share) and let him know that when he has demonstrated he can appropriately share, he will get the chance to go to playgroup again.

Jenny said...

I agree with RT on this one (because it's the correct point) but the problem is that this mommy doesn't seem to see the problem. :( To her, her little guy is doing just "what he does".

And it's entirely unfair to "blame" the fact of a younger sibling on the older's behavior; by 5 months, he had better be getting over it and on with his life! Any mom with more than one kid knows that you just can't make excuses forever...

Maybe a sweet but gentle reminder from you to the little boy -- "I'm sorry, sweetie, but Joshua was playing with that" -- and taking the toy back would help the situation, at least for J. I would hope someone would say that to Mark if he were doing the same thing.

Rightthinker said...

Exactly, Jenny. Blaming children's behavior on anything other than what the parent has created, is a common problem. Parents nowadays refuse to "encroach on their child's creative spirit" in any capacity, it seems, and unruly and disrespectful behavior ensues.

Unfortunately, in social settings, many parents tend to upset parents who have well behaved kids. They fail to understand that kids can still be crazy kids and have respect and follow rules. No matter where we go we get complimented on having "such good kids", because it is so unusual to see. To me, they are just normal, and the bratty kids/parents have the problems, LOL!

MB is in a tough situation, because like you said, the mother is oblivious. It really comes down to just having to be honest with the child and parent. If the child is mistreating your child, then an attempt at correction will have to happen. If that fails, you will have to move, altogether, and possibly speak to the mother about her child. Uncomfortable, but necessary.

Ruth said...

I agree with the comments above.

My 4 year old is generally very well behaved - he is a pleasure to be with and I love taking him out. However, there was one occassion (fairly shortly after the birth of my daughter - she was 6 months old, he would have been 3), when he did snatch from a visiting 4 year old. Despite my reprimands, he continued with this snatching and the other mother took issue with it too - and started to tell him off. I was rather mortified by her response. All I am saying is that it is devastating to have your parenting skills criticised and to witness someone else being cross with your child. It's something to tread carefully with (especially when the behaviour is a "one-off", or when you do not know whether the bahaviour is out of character).

I generally begin my visit to other people's houses with these words to my 4 year old: "If you hear me count "one" whilst we are here, then you had better stop what you are doing, because if I count up to "three" we will be leaving and coming home. Understand? Good. Now come on - let's have some fun".

It works! - and no nasty telling off from mummy in public!

Sorry for the length of that comment - I hope I haven't sent everyone to sleep! Thank you for the blog - I love reading it and I am fascinated by these parenting issues.

Rightthinker said...

I find it more ridiculous that we have to tiptoe around people these days. It wasn't so long ago that discipline and required behavior was protocal. Now, it is unusual to have well-behaved children at all.

It is terrible that parents so worry about how their kids will view them, that they refuse to parent out of fear. It is even worse when from that fear there grows a little safety net around their kids, that makes their kids unable to do any wrong! Often, those are the parents pointing out how another parent should do something differently.

As far as I am concerned, as long as our kids are getting along, and mine abide by rules, I don't care how you have taught them respect and boundaries-all that counts is that you have. I just also expect that you (no one specific-just a general "you") don't overly concern yourself with how we have gotten our children to behave, as well!

Mary Beth said...

Welcome Ruth! You bring up the excellent point of parenting in public, which, in my opinion, is one of the most horrifying aspects of being a new parent. That's why I'm trying to learn as much as I can now about what can be expected of children at certain age levels so that I can be prepared for when my kid starts to grow up. Of course, I'm in the best possible position right now. No one expects much of a nine-month-old except to be cute--there just isn't much that can be considered inappropriate.

I love your pep talk with your child before going to other people's houses. Did you know there's a book called One, Two, Three Magic that explains how to do the "1, 2, 3, leads to natural consequences" technique? My husband and I both agree that we never bothered to figure out what happened at three...we were too scared!

Thanks to Jenny and RT for you responses, as well. I hope blogger never swallows my blog because I'll be referencing all of this again in a few years. It's good to share parenting wisdom!

martha said...

I remember how a certain 49 year old man (particularly manic nursing home resident, you know who I'm saying) would stop whatever collision course he was on if you reached as though you were going to pick up the phone (any phone) and said "I'm going to make the call!"

Remember that?

We didn't know who we were threatening to call, but it worked every time.

Ruth said...

Hello again

Mary Beth - you've second-guessed my source for the "one, two, three" pep talk that I use. I read the book that you recommend about two years and have found it to be excellent!! I join with you in highly recommending it.

Rightthinker - I more or less agree with you on every point. But if the child of a fellow parent were misbehaving in my company, I would choose to address the issue - but do so with incredible sensitivity (for fear of damaging my relationship with that parent, apart from anything else). If you want to call that "tiptoeing around" - ok. Guilty! I'd address the problem, but carefully.

And regarding: I just also expect that you (no one specific-just a general "you") don't overly concern yourself with how we have gotten our children to behave, as well!

This is an interesting point - here in the UK, a law has recently been passed that makes it illegal to smack your child to the extent that you "leave a mark". So, here, the State concerns itself to some extent with the methods you use to encourage good behaviour. Some favour that law, other's don't and despise, what they call, "The Nanny State" ('telling them how to live their lives').

Mary Beth said...

Martha--Maybe I'll have to tuck away the "phone call" technique in my disciplinary toolbelt for future use! Ha! I had forgotten. Thanks for a great laugh!

Rightthinker said...

We have laws like that, as well. Although, I am not sure of the specifics. I figure, if anyone infringes upon my parental rights to raise my children biblically, then I would deal with it then!

I have an article I did (out of several on parenting) about biblical parenting and the need for raising Godly children in a Godless world.

I have done a lot of research, as well as a lot of Christian parenting studies. I have always come to the same conclusions. As Christians, we have a duty to raise well-behaved, God-fearing children who have respect and concern for others. This requires different approaches at different times, for different chidren. Above all, it requires consistency and energy-the two things many parents don't want to bother with.

I was also asked to lead one of our women's Bible study meetings on the subject of Biblical parenting. It was an honor to be discussing parenting issues from a biblical standpoint. Of course, most of the most valuable education for me has been hands-on.

We have a 9-year-old, just turned 4-year-old, just turned 3-year-old and a 15 month old. Being that they are well-behaved and enthusiastic at church, the pastor's wife saw benefit in my sharing how and why we have such well-behaved kids without having broken a single whim of their spirit!

Oh, and the tiptoeing comment was because I don't think we should have to say a single thing to parents. (I realize we may have to, and THAT is the problem!) Parents should learn how to raise their kids and should prevent their holy terrors from disrupting or harming children who have been dealt with appropriately from the beginning! However, there is nothing but laziness from all around, and I also believe a society of being rased in daycare produces children with mixed messages regarding discipline and a guilt with parents that prevents appropriate discipline.

Mary Beth said...

Please note: My silence on the issues that RT raises on biblical parenting and daycare (to which she linked in the above comment) should not be taken as tacit agreement. If other readers would like to discuss this with her, I have no doubt she would be game. I have neither the time nor energy. I say this with all due respect. :)

Rightthinker said...

I really don't have much else to add on the subject here, that's why I linked to the blog where I wrote about what my family believes. There was a question about development of a toddler who was not acting appropriately in a social situation, and the mother who acted oblivious.

In my opinion, there is a reason people can't handle even one or two children, and their lives are chaos. Their kids control their lives because their parents are scared of them and by-and-large too busy to deal with it.

I don't expect others to agree with me. That's why I favor the "raise your kids the way you want, and leave me to raise mine" argument. I don't view parenting as a community effort, but an effort of God-centered parents. The goal for all of us is that when they are adults, we can all be satisfied with the way they were raised.

Take care!

anna said...

Um well seeing how I actually got to discuss this in person...snicker snicker...I won't make this long.....

I agree with what Jenny said in the below posts comment section. Yes a 3 year old should know how to share but many times doesn't have the actual habit. Much like my 11 year old should know how to share, but often the act just isn't there all the time. It's my job as a parent to reinforce as often as needed (which with a toddler, and a preteen means sometimes a hundred times a day).

My opinion is that this kid is testing the waters at play group and quiet frankly his mom failed. The next time will be worse, because bad behavior and empty threats were what was reinforced not good behavior which in my opinion is what play group is for. I don't want to put my child in full time daycare but I do want to teach him group social skills with my influence not a daycare workers. So play groups is an ideal set up but I must be an active participant in order for it to work for me. It's not a babysitter but a place of learning for your child. This mother and child sadly missed that.
You, though MB, get to teach your child about sharing even when the other kid isn't and that is even more important in some ways.

Lorna said...

erm - I think even 2 year olds can be taught NOT to take something from another's hard. I'm not sure sharing ever comes easily though - we are selfish at heart.