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A RIE and Montessori Approach to Sharing

Otto learning to share at How we Montessori

The RIE and Montessori approaches are not always the same but on sharing I find them really compatible. I've learnt a lot about how to teach my child empathy and authentic sharing by reading more about the RIE approach.

I'm compelled to write this as in just over a week I've experienced two occasions where another adult has tried to take an object from my child's hands in an attempt to make him 'share' with their child. Unless you are the child's parent, caregiver or close friend/relative or it is a safety issue, it's not ok to touch another child in a forceful way and its not ok to force them to share.

"One toddler is playing with a bucket, and another child tugs at it in an attempt to take it for himself. At this point, many adults would ask them to "share nicely". Sharing is a concept that toddlers are too young to understand. The dictionary definition of share is to "let somebody use something". But if a child is enjoying with an object, asking him to share is essentially asking him to give it up. Why is his desire to play with an object until he's all done less important than another child's desire to play with it?"

"For sharing to come from an authentic and heartfelt place, a child needs to have developed empathy - the ability to understand another's point of view. Empathy develops when a child has opportunities to interact with other children, with the support of an attentive adult. Over time, a child sees how his behaviour affects another and has a greater understanding of another child's point of view. Trust that your toddler will develop empathy and that he will take turns of share then he is ready. Most children are not ready to share much before age three, and even then, it can be difficult." 

"If adults are necessary to "keep the peace" what happens when the adult is not around? Toddlers can learn to be empathetic, patient, and kind to one another, but the learning process requires commitment on the part of adults to set clear and consistent limits, with patience and kindness. We model the behaviour we want our children to develop...Model gentleness and prosocial behaviour and give your child time to internalize this behaviour." Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way

"If we make him surrender his toy mid-play, we unintentionally send the message that his needs don’t matter; that his play is unimportant; that anybody can take his things at will, and that adults morally expect him to surrender his things to anyone who demands them. He may react by being angry, maybe even becoming physically aggressive—or alternatively by learning to just give up and passively retreat whenever conflict arises." 

"A young child who feels compelled by adults to surrender of his values, far from being empathetic to others, actually often comes to see others as a negative. Instead of viewing another child as a source of joy, a potential playmate or someone they can choose to collaborate with, they begin to view other children as threats, as intruders who may take their toys whenever they feel like it." - LePort Montessori

"Instead of asking a child to share their activity with someone else, in Montessori schools the ground rule is that we share by taking turns. We only have one of each activity, a child can work as long as they like with it (allows repetition, concentration, and mastery); and children learn to wait their turn, a useful skill to learn." - The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising A Curious and Responsible Human Being

In our home it is important we promote sharing in a really positive way and that means sharing our resources. We learn how to share through food, we prepare and share snack to our guests, most often with our toddler's input. Sharing food or treats at a picnic or while on a playdate can be incredibly rewarding for a young child. We see our toddler feel pride when he shares his books on a playdate, shares his blanket with a friend. Once the child starts to feel this genuine empathy it's a little catchy and they continue with this really positive behaviour. 

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