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Montessori at home: Why we don’t force kids to share

It doesn’t need to be a constant battle.

Montessori at home: Why we don’t force kids to share

As you probably know, being a referee for kids is pretty much a lose-lose situation. There is frequently no way to please everyone or make things seem fair. There is often no way to even decipher what happened or who “had it first.”


It’s not your fault, children just have such a strong (and often unreasonable) sense of justice. They want so badly for you to see their side, yet they’re often still learning how to see the other person’s side.

Many of these frustrating little fights pop up because of incidents of sharing, or a lack thereof.

There is nothing inherently wrong with sharing, it’s a beautiful idea and an important concept. The problem is, it’s really vague. There are no set rules and that can be confusing, and very frustrating, to a young child.

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Imagine if you were really engrossed in a project on your laptop, but all of a sudden, you had to stop what you were doing and hand over your computer to a friend because it was her turn and you needed to share.

Or imagine you were cooking dinner, but suddenly had to give up your best knife because it was someone else’s turn. What if you couldn’t wear your favorite dress to a party because you needed to share? How frustrating would that be? It’s almost unimaginable, because it’s not the way the adult world works.

Play is children’s work and it is just as frustrating for them. Plus it puts you in the constant role of referee, which is no fun for anyone.

You might be surprised to hear that we don’t really “do” sharing in Montessori schools. In a sense, the children share everything in the classroom, but they are never asked to stop working with something because someone else wants it.

One main reason is that we want children to be able to work with something just as long as their stretching concentration will allow them.

Another reason though is that waiting is an important life skill. Montessori classrooms purposely have just one of most of the materials so that children have to learn to wait, to choose something else to do, when what they want most is not available.

So instead of asking the children to share, we have a simple rule—if someone is working with something, it is not available.

When the children see the material back on the shelf, they know they may choose it. They rarely come to us asking if they can have a turn because the rule is so simple, they know what the answer will be.

Sometimes there is a particularly exciting new material in the classroom and a particularly eager child who can barely contain himself with his desire to get his hands on it. In this case, we suggest to the child that he ask the person using it to let him know when they’re done so he can have a turn. The other child almost always graciously agrees.

We also assure the child that the material will be available for many days and they will get a turn to use it. Then we ask him to go choose something else while he waits.

I think there are times when talking about sharing is useful, like explaining to your child that when you have a guest over, the guest may share his toys. You can help your child put away any toys he is much too in love with to share, to avoid a battle.

You could also talk about sharing what we have with people in need, about how it’s important to help those who need it when we can.

But if you’re facing constant pleas of “Is it my turn yet?” or “She’s had it so long,” you may want to give this a try. Simply explain that the toy will be available when the other child is done using it, but he may use it as long as he likes. Then help your child find something else to do.

It also helps to show you understand the frustration and difficulty of waiting. You could say something like, “It’s hard to wait. This morning, I wanted to shower, but I had to wait until Daddy was done. Waiting is something we all have to practice.” This shows that you’re not dismissing how they feel, but that waiting is just part of life.

Learning to wait for what we want really is hard, but it doesn’t need to be a constant battle. Try taking yourself out of the equation and making a rule simple enough that the children can handle it on their own.

Then you can sit back and contemplate sharing a bottle of wine that night instead, because conquering this battle deserves celebrating.

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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