Please, thank you and excuse me are some of the first words a child should learn, and I’ve tried to put that belief into practice with my daughter — once she mastered “mama,” of course.
In fact, my husband and I are such sticklers about please and thank you, we’re starting to think we’ve taken it a little too far.
Our little girl, Reese, who will be 2 next month, recently was playing with her oversized Legos on the floor. She knocked over a newly built tower and proceeded to apologize to the blocks. She also thanks me at odd moments for doing things I pretty much consider standard, such as kissing her when I walk in the door from work, lifting her out of the bath tub and brushing her hair. Well, at least she more or less gets the idea.
The thing she’s not so great at is sharing. We’ve tried repeatedly to help Reese understand the concept, but nonetheless, her favorite word seems to be “mine!” Although we’ve never fielded a complaint from daycare, my husband has, a time or two, witnessed Reese refusing to share a toy in her possession or trying to take a toy from another child. Of course, he always jumps in and tries to correct the situation, but we’d prefer it didn’t happen in the first place.
I talked about it once with Reese’s teacher, who assured me she’ll learn quickly once she has a sibling. Confident in our decision to keep our happy family the size it is, but also feeling slightly awkward, I tried to make light of her comment and said with a nervous laugh, “No, it’ll just be Reese. After all, you can’t improve on perfection, so why bother trying?”
Because she is and will be an only child — and she’s spoiled rotten by her grandmother and aunt — my husband and I actually do go to great lengths to stress to Reese the importance of the sharing concept.
Every night, when I tuck her into bed, I choose one of Reese’s stuffed animals and ask her if she will share it with me. I explain that I’d like to take her plush toy for the night so it can keep me warm in bed, and then I promise to bring it back in the morning. Depending on which toy I choose, she’s usually pretty willing to part with it. On a couple occasions, though, I’ve left her room only to be called back in five minutes later and told to “give my bear,” which means she’s thought it over and she’d like the stuffed animal returned pronto.
Also, trying to teach a toddler to share can easily backfire. Reese has always enjoyed feeding her meals and snacks to our dog, Abbie, when she thinks my husband and I aren’t looking. Now when I catch her slipping Abbie bites of broccoli, Reese looks at me innocently, eyes wide, and says, “See, share! Share, Mommy!”
Of course, it’s tough to make her understand that providing “people food” to our pet technically is sharing — in the most basic sense — but it’s just not a great idea ... unless you ask Abbie, who seems to be OK with it.
Like anything that pertains to raising a child, sharing is a work in progress. Once we have it mastered, though, I’m pretty sure the next thing we’ll work on is tackling household chores. That’s a responsibility I’ll gladly share any day of the week!