25 Mar 2014

Seeds into the First Child Syndrome

Eli's currently going through a "Mine!!" phase. Now that Kai can grab or hold onto things, if Eli catches Kai even looking at something of his, he automatically reminds his little brother that it's "Mine!". As a parent when you hear this, you instinctively respond with "Share." This is usually met with hesitation and irritation, but all you want to achieve is for your child to understand, and begin to embody the value of sharing.

I was reflecting on this. Being the eldest of three girls, I too was taught to share all the time. My younger sister and I are also roughly two and a half years apart, so my earliest memories already include her. Fast track into my troublesome teens, and my constant complaint about being the eldest was I felt that my sisters got away with everything. People who only have one other sibling, and are of the opposite sex won't understand this feeling, because the dynamics are different. At the time I didn't know how to articulate, or explain what I meant when I said they got away with everything, but now as a parent I've realised "sharing" contributed to this feeling. Let me explain. 

Sharing. Even as I searched for a definition in google, it's defined as "have a portion of something with another or others." Sharing gives you the notion that you don't own something, that you forgo it as completely yours, like a birthday cake. The cake is for you but it's not completely yours as you will ultimately share it with others. 

By telling a toddler he has to "share" all the time he's probably losing his sense of control. Something they test and want more of, especially during this phase of their life. But being the eldest sharing is something he's got to live with for the rest of his life. So hearing it, feeling that you don't ultimately own anything, over the years would have an impact on a person. 

Growing up the concept of sharing and other "eldest child" behaviours and beliefs was drilled hard into my core, so much more than my younger sisters. I felt a sense of not being treated fairly because there was an expectation on me to show behaviours above my siblings, to be a certain example.  

I've come to realise I'm doing what I hated being done to me. I've made the conscious decision that I want to change the way I deliver the "sharing" message. Already I see Eli has some of my character traits. I don't want Eli to feel like he's lost ownership when he's sharing, and when Kai is old enough the weight of sharing will be equally distributed. My dear sister still thinks that I need to share with her. I wont go into reasons why I'd argue that I don't agree with that now, but ultimately I think its because my parents didn't emphasise that she too also had to share ... with me. Sharing is a 50/50 transaction, not a responsibility of one. 
I don't want to teach Eli that sharing is something he has to do, like its a burden. I want to get him to understand that sharing is something we do because we want to, because it's right. One of the ways I think I will achieve this is through what I say when I'm asking him to share. I will stop responding with just "Share!" when I see him snatch something off his brother's hands. Instead explain and use words to get him to understand, and willingly share what he has with his brother - I know there will be times I will fail at achieving this hypothesis.

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