Teaching my son to share

Dorit - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Entered on August 4, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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My three and a half year old son thinks that saying the word “stupid” can get him some attention especially when older boys quickly take from him what he likes best: trains.

Surprisingly, older boys have also been role models and as a result, my son feels challenged to share. After the last train incident, I looked to the puzzle and reading room of our nearby play center as a place where good things can hopefully happen.

On one bleary Saturday, we entered the reading room to find an older boy doing a foamy Elmo puzzle. I found him minutes later, helping the boy. This boy was somewhere between seven and eight years old. He had Down’s syndrome. He tried to piece Elmo’s hand and couldn’t. When my son found what he thought was Elmo’s hand, he tried the puzzle piece at once. It fitted perfectly. But the older boy was already separating what my son had already pieced. “Silly boy” the older boy said. “Why can’t I do this?” the boy shouted. He held up another piece. “This is his hand.” I watched.

My son handed him the remaining pieces of the puzzle and didn’t seem to mind when the boy continued to say “silly boy.” At one point my son went to work on another section of Elmo while this boy continued to say “silly boy.” It was clear to me then that my son was determined to stay and help this boy complete the puzzle.

Together they put Elmo’s hand, foot, ear together. My son would find the piece, handed it to boy who said again, “silly boy.” My son gave this young boy the impression his friend was doing the puzzle. They laughed together. When my son finally found Elmo’s second hand, he shouted: “Oh, it fits! It’s Elmo’s hand!” the young boy stopped saying: “silly boy” and tried hard to concentrate on finding the last two pieces of the Elmo puzzle.

When the last two Elmo pieces were placed, the boy stood up and said in a loud voice: “Elmo!” and looked at the puzzle for a minute or two. It gave him such a feeling of accomplishment. His mother looked at both of them, tears were in her eyes. My son, proud of himself, had already brought “Thomas the Train” another foamy puzzle to him, but his friend already lost interest. My son couldn’t help but give the boy a hug while the mom watched breathlessly.

Since praising my son for his wonderfully good deed, it has been much easier to teach him about sharing. As a result, we encouraged our three year old son to hold the door open for the frail lady downstairs, respect the child’s book he initially threw, and bring the towel to daddy in the bathroom. The next time he wants to take the train from an older boy, we remind him, “Do you remember the boy with the Elmo puzzle and how you helped him?” He stops crying and looks in the direction of the reading room.

Sharing is like putting a puzzle together – you don’t realize that each piece is important for the final outcome.