I had a mom recently ask me about dealing with selfishness from her 3 year old. I must confess, my initial thoughts are, “GOOD LUCK WITH THAT…” haha! I think most parents would agree that if we could some how miraculously rid ourselves (and our children) of selfishness our jobs would be much less less complex.
I wish I had a photo to post here but it was too precarious of a situation to manage to grab my camera. I’ll try to describe it to you:
I’m working in the kitchen and the girls are running about. In our kitchen we have an island in the middle of it all. I’m working on the stove-top side of the island when I hear blood curdling screams coming from Girl2 and Girl3. I start to assess the situation and realize it’s coming from the other side of the island. I timidly walk around to find the girls (ages almost 2 and 3.5) with some sort of toy between the two of them. They both had their 2 fists entangled in the other’s hair… right above their forehead… screaming like maniacs… neither taking a breath. I must admit I know I should have hopped to and started untangling their grubby hands… but I had to giggle first. I didn’t ask questions, but I’d bet that situation was over the toy. We are by nature selfish creatures.
How do we handle the situation? A few tips from my life experience:
- While young children can’t understand the depth of selfishness, I do use the lingo and trust the Lord will teach them in time. For example, “James, I want you to share with Jacob. He is younger than you are… he doesn’t understand sharing as well as you do… I know it’s hard… but right now you’re being selfish and the Lord wants us not to be selfish.” Will they understand all that… No… but keep putting it out there and eventually it will settle in.
- Remind them they are on the same team. “James, God made you and Jacob brothers… He wants you to be kind… and patient. Since Jacob is younger than you, it will require a lot of patience… thank you for trying hard… you’re a good boy.”
- I like to take timed turns. “James, I am going to let you have a 10 minute turn with the robot, then we will let Jacob take a 10 minute turn. We can keep taking turns until you are through playing with the robot.”
- Once they are older I try to remind them that often the “stink” over the toy is a bigger deal than the toy itself. “James, I bet if you let Jacob play with the robot for 15 minutes, he will be done and then you can take it in the other room and play all you’d like in quiet.”
- Remind them the Lord wants us to be generous…. it’s a hard lesson.
- Let them work it out on their own. I’m not kidding when I say that as I type this my girls are disagreeing over who will have a toy piano. Girl 2 took it by brute force… Girl 3 cried for 10 seconds and now it’s over. Sometimes you just have to let them deal with it. When they make good decisions, reward them verbally.
Be encouraged… my teenager and 11 year old don’t argue over things anymore… well very often…