January 14, 2013

Do you Choose Competition or Cooperation?


I’ve had a few conversations lately, both online and off, about sharing things between siblings.  There’s the lament about needing to buy two (or more if you have more children) of everything because your children won’t share and the annoyance of needing two things the same because otherwise it is not fair. This is a pretty normal expression of sibling rivalry.

But as a parent this is irritating because
it costs more,
sometimes you end up buying something for one of your children that you know they don’t really want, just because their brother has one,
and your family doesn’t really need two of whatever thing you happen to be buying.

Of course, as a parent, you have a choice.  But often, especially if your children are there, you choose the path of least resistance.  Especially if the somethings you are buying are inexpensive, you reason it can’t really hurt.  And it probably doesn’t hurt much. But the mindset creeps in and when you go shopping without your children or when you think about what to buy as a present for Christmas or a birthday, you find yourself considering buying two of the same thing. 

But I have found after reflecting on this in my conversations lately that my shopping has now gone in a new direction, where I can choose co-operation and playing together.

Take for example, Christmas presents …

This year my husband and I had a choice – buy each of our sons an amazing toy that they would love or buy a family present that our sons would love and that they could play together.  We chose to buy a family air hockey table.

Before that my husband and I (with help from grandparents) chose to get a fort and a large sandpit for our backyard.

Before that we chose to get a trampoline.

This started because we valued playing outside and creating a fun outdoor play-space for our family.  But I realise now that we were also promoting sibling and family togetherness, rather than sibling rivalry.

Lately, I see this as a challenge when I make purchases – can I choose something that will get my children playing together or how can I promote co-operation if I purchase only one of something?

When I buy new textas, could we buy one large set with more different colours to be shared, rather than two smaller, separate sets.

When we buy a chocolate bar, could we split one chocolate bar and put the money saved toward “(fill in exciting collaborative game …)”

There are some things where one each is clearly better.  It would be less fun to have only one bike – then my sons couldn’t go bike riding together.  But that is not always the case.

In a consumer culture, where everything you want is easy to come by, and where independence and working alone are prized over working collaboratively, it is easy to choose to buy two of everything.  But then a lesson about working together and valuing the things that you have is missed ...

How about you – does it bother you to have to buy multiples of things for your children?  How do you encourage them to share and play together?

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