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Guest:

Meet Cindy Hovington, Ph.D.

Cindy is the founder of Curious Neuron and the host of the Curious Neuron Podcast. She is a mom of 3 from Montreal, Canada and has a doctorate degree in neuroscience (specializing in mental health and emotions). Her mission is to support parents in developing skills and habits that will allow them to proactively nurture their well-being. Parents can develop leadership and coaching skills and learn science-based well-being tips focused in psychology and neuroscience. Join the Reflective Parent to feel empowered and connected in your parenting journey!

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Summary:

Wondering why your two-year-old is not keen on sharing toys with their playmates? I have a reel that is about to hit 4 MILLION views…and it’s about sharing. Many people don’t agree with my post so today’s episode is all about understanding child development and sharing – a concept that genuinely blossoms around the age of four.  Let’s unravel the misconceptions and shed light on the research behind this fascinating aspect of child growth.

Developing pro-social behavior in children is an art. And the canvas – relationships! Yes, kids are more likely to share with people they’re familiar with. But how can we, as parents and educators, encourage these skills? Let’s get practical as we discuss everything from how to inspire your child to pass on their balloon to their best bud, to sharing a yummy cookie with grandma. We explore the importance of patience, understanding, and excellent guidance in nurturing these essential life skills.

Play, the universal language of children, is our secret weapon. We dive into how play can teach children about sharing, mine vs. yours, patience, and even conflict resolution. The episode wraps up with some love for our wonderful listeners, emphasizing how much we appreciate your ratings and reviews. We hope to continue delivering insightful episodes and wish you a beautiful week ahead! Don’t miss out on this enlightening journey into the world of child development and sharing.


LINK: Listen Here


Transcript:

Hello, my dear friends, welcome back to another episode of the Curious Neuron Podcast. My name is Cindy Huffington and I am your host. Today we are talking about sharing, and the reason why we’re talking about sharing is because a post that I have or real on Instagram is about to hit 4 million views. It’s my first viral reel, I guess, and I never would have thought that a post on sharing would have gone viral. The reason why it actually went viral is because there are a lot of people that don’t agree with what I posted. So today I’m going to explain myself and go a little bit deeper into this topic about sharing and what to expect, I guess, from a child at different ages when it comes to sharing. I was even invited on global news here in Montreal to chat about this. So on Monday I’m also going to be on global news in the morning at 8.20. So I don’t know if you’re listening to this podcast episode before 8 o’clock in Montreal, but you could tune in to Global Montreal or listen to the replay that might be available on their website. But before we move forward, as always, I do want to thank the Tannenbaum Open Science Institute at the Neuro here in Montreal for supporting the Kieris Neuron podcast. They are our main sponsors and I am so grateful that an organization that supports open science supports the work that we are doing here at Kieris Neuron. So thank you, and I am also grateful that BetterHelp and Poc Poc are two friends of Kieris Neurons that are sponsoring part of our podcast as well. If you are looking for therapy, that is very easy to do. You don’t have to be on a waitlist, you just jump online. You don’t have to leave your home. I have been talking to so many parents that are part of this community that have thanked me for mentioning BetterHelp, and the link is in the show notes with your discount code. The same for Poc Poc. This is an app that is not overstimulating. So if you are looking for something for your child that is open-ended just like I always support, and is not overstimulating, with lots of sounds and flashes, poc Poc is an app that your child will enjoy. It was the first app that I ever downloaded onto my phone and the iPad for my kids, and it remains there years later because they enjoy it and still ask for it. So, poc Pok Pok, thank you for doing the work that you do, and BetterHelp, thank you for making us calmer and more connected parents.

Cindy:

Alright, so the reel that I posted a couple weeks ago said the brain only begins to understand the concept of sharing by about age four. This is why kids should not be getting in trouble for not sharing, since the brain isn’t there yet developmentally. So into the caption I elaborated a lot more, talking about a study that saw that these pro-social behaviors were only at their cc, or what we expected to be closer to the peak, to the age of four, between three and four, and some even closer to five. The views on this podcast not podcast, but this Instagram reel are blowing me away, and the comments are blowing me away even more. A lot of them are mean and I want to explain myself. So I do agree that there is.

Cindy:

The way that I wrote it on the slide itself maybe leads people to believe that a child cannot share at all, but that’s not what I explained in the caption and I want to clarify that. So, first of all, the definition of sharing is not about a child giving you their parent a toy that is part of what we’re looking at but the true pro-social behavior where you are intrinsically, for your own pleasure, sharing something with someone out of kindness and caring and sacrificing, willing to sacrifice. That is a pro-social behavior that starts later on, around the age that I just said. I couldn’t explain all of that, obviously, in the caption, but I did try to and I think maybe there was a misunderstanding. So a lot of parents were saying what kind of bull crap. I’m trying to be nice with my words, but you know what is this? I have a one-year-old and they’re able to share. Of course, never said they wouldn’t be able to. But the reason why I wanted to post this is because I often see at the park we’re on play dates or in some preschools and daycares, children getting some sort of consequence or punished or yelled at or disciplined for not sharing, and it just led me to kind of diving into the research and looking into what are we supposed to expect from our child. I also get lots of emails from parents and DMS telling me that they struggle when they have more than one child, with that child sharing with their sibling. So I knew that this is something we had to talk about and I also realized after reading the research that we shouldn’t really be getting mad at our child for not sharing. We really should be teaching them and understanding that they’re not really there yet. They don’t have these pro-social skills. They are developing them. It’s not that all kids don’t have these social skills yet, or disability, but we do have to support it and scaffold it. And that was the whole point of the real.

Cindy:

Although some people call me some really bad names and even call my kids bad names, I never posted about my kids. It became quite an intense post. I didn’t know that talking about sharing would cause a lot of anger in some people as well. I had to respond. I honestly haven’t responded to many of them, but some people that I responded to I questioned why it made them so angry and the response that I received back from these people that were so angry at the post saying things like this is the kind of crap article or the kind of what did they write? The kind of crap postings that lead to parents being lazy. Parents are so lazy and now they’re going to continue being lazy, thinking that it’s okay to leave your child. Do that? I never, ever said that and I responded to some of these asking what made them so angry, and some of them were early childhood educators saying that they noticed that kids are not sharing and parents are not giving consequences and parents are not parenting their child. So I think this kind of triggered people more than I thought it would. Actually no, that’s a lie, I didn’t think it was going to trigger people but once I saw it was kind of causing some sort of triggering people. I didn’t think it would blow up this way.

Cindy:

When it comes to sharing, you know, I often feel that I spoke about how parents kind of give their child consequences. But I also feel that parents are embarrassed when they’re at a play date and their child isn’t sharing and their child is like one and a half or two. I mean at that age, before the age of three, we’re not even expecting a child to want to play directly with the child, right? So at two, three years old or before the age of three, they’re not really. They’re doing parallel play. So they’re going to play beside someone, but they’re not going to play pretend where you’re the chef and I’m the person showing up at the restaurant. You know that’s a different level of play and that happens after the age of three.

Cindy:

So before the age of three, especially when it comes to sharing, of course, it might happen that a child sees a toy and shares it with their friend, and the outcome or the results of this particular study that I summarized for this Instagram meal showed that a younger, a child under the age of four, is more likely to share something, an object, with a person that is their friend or a relative or an educator that they know, rather than somebody they don’t know. So already at that level, we should be expecting them to share with us, because we are somebody who is closer to them. But when we are going on a new play date or a new cousin is coming over or whatever it is, and our child, who’s you know younger than the age of four or closer to the age of two, whatever it is, is not sharing, I don’t want parents to feel embarrassed that their child isn’t sharing and that they should be sharing, and I also don’t want parents to get mad at their child. I want you to kind of express to them that when they’re done playing with that particular toy, that it would be kind for them to share it with their friend or their cousin or family member. That’s the sort of approach I was hoping to highlight in this post.

Cindy:

Let me give you a few examples of what I mean by this pro social behavior, right? So not just taking an object and giving it to somebody. That is the beginnings. Those are the beginning steps of what I’m talking about. So I’m just going to scroll down because I’m looking at my notes and I highlighted here an example so that it’s a little bit more clear.

Cindy:

So, to highlight this pro social task, there was a study that I’ll mention in the everything will be in the show notes that gave 18 and 25, 18 to 25 month old children a balloon identical to their parent that was beside them, but the adult only had one, while the child had two balloons. Then the adult accidentally lost their balloon, made it float away, becoming visibly upset and trying to catch it or go get it. Half of the children exhibited some form of positive, potentially pro social response to this distress of the adult, you know, trying to get the balloon back, and some of them, and the way that they did this was by pointing to a ladder, trying to show them like you can go get it, try to get it done it was on the ceiling, I believe or saying things like balloon gone, right. So expressing that I’ve noticed that the balloon is gone and you don’t have one anymore. However, only 12 out of the 64 kids so that’s 19% actually gave a balloon to the adult. So that act of taking something that I love, that I’m enjoying, and knowing that I’m going to give one to you and lose that that pro social behavior is not that common in younger kids. That’s what I was trying to highlight In the study also that I summarized for the Instagram.

Cindy:

I also there was an example of a cookie, right. So if you’re in the lunch room at work and somebody comes in and says I can’t believe I forgot my lunch, I don’t have time to go get my lunch, and you have this big oatmeal cookie in your hands, you will instinctively hopefully not all adults actually, but you might instinctively say, well, you want half of my cookie, like it’s huge, and I mean I had my lunch, this is just my dessert. You want half of my cookie. We will offer that. But that that is the pro social behavior not expecting anything back, knowing that you’re losing something that was yours and being okay with that because the fulfillment of helping somebody else is satisfying to you. That pro social behavior is exactly what I was talking about in the post and is the example that I just outlined here. Some of the skills that a child will develop before that are ownership, understanding what’s mine, what’s yours, which is which is happening in toddlers. There is an aspect of empathy as well, like in the example that I talked to you about with the balloon.

Cindy:

What’s interesting is that in very young kids they will often share as a result of a parent suggesting it or an adult in their environment. That is normal, that is great. We want that to happen. We want a child to respond positively to that as well. But that intrinsic aspect of it that does form a little bit later in some kids. Like we saw before, 19% of those kids did it on their own, you know, meaning that it’s not impossible. Let me read a few quotes from the article that I have here again. That will be in the show notes. So it says we share all sorts of things with one another, from food and belongings to ideas, feelings and beliefs.

Cindy:

In young children, too, sharing takes a form, a number of forms, including attention sharing, emotion sharing, information sharing and resource sharing. Although these are all sharing, they differ in their specific functions and motivations. In particular, they are not all necessarily other oriented. Other oriented sharing occurs to benefit the recipient, typically to change the other’s psychological or internal state for the better. For example, an older child may share his cookie with his younger sibling when she’s crying to make her happy.

Cindy:

By 12 months of age, infants bring or show toys to parents in a parent acts of sharing. Or even earlier, by 10 or 12 months, they offer food to their parents. They offer toys to their parents in a mean of connection and a way of connection and in a way of socializing object exchange. But this is not the other oriented pro-social behavior that we were talking about in this post and the authors continue to say. However, these early social acts may not be pro-social in the sense of behavior that is intended to benefit another. Infants may show a toy to an adult as an act of emotion or attention sharing, or they may be seeking a positive reaction or other form of approval from the adult. They may offer a toy as a way to get the adult to play with them or as a part of a regular game routine, or deposit a toy in the adult’s lap to prevent another child from gaining access to it.

Cindy:

What I will say is that when I looked at all the studies and tried to paint a better picture of how sharing develops. It wasn’t very clear. So this particular study I thought was interesting because it talked about the one that I highlighted in the Instagram meal talked about how kids naturally share with people that they know. But besides that, if you look at more studies, they say 30 months, 3 years, 4 years where that pro-social behavior might appear to be a little bit more developmentally appropriate. So, as one study says it, the developmental picture of sharing or this pro-social or other oriented pro-social sharing actually remains unclear. So I did highlight that particular study and it led to a lot of conversation. But I do want to say that there are so many flaws also in these studies, but that I still stand by the fact that we should not be punishing or disciplining a child for not sharing. It’s not a behavioral thing, it’s a skill, it’s a social skill that they need to learn. So we have to support that. I stand by that, all right. So if you’re listening to this and you said, well, that’s great. Now what? I have two kids and they’re not sharing and I have no idea what to do with them, well, there are ways to go about it and this is part of what I did within my home. Everything is, or most of what we taught them is, through play. So, like I said before, one of the first steps really is ownership understanding Right. So by if you have a 12 month old or 18 month old or 24 month old that is really struggling with sharing, what I did with my kids is I would play mine, yours, mine, yours. That was the first step. So we would take a toy and I would take and say oh, mine. And then my child would put their hand out and say oh, yours, and I would play it in their hand. And then I would say mine, please. And I would put my hand out with my palm open towards them. And when they would place it, you know it takes some time they learned what I meant by mine and yours. When they placed it in my hand, then I would close my hand around the object and say thank you, mine, and then I would say would you like it? And they would put out their hand. So it became a game mine and yours. Once that was very clear when I had three kids and neither I really needed to teach them how to share. What I started doing with them was showing them that all the toys belong to all of them and that there were opportunities to play with the toy. Just because your sibling wants the toy doesn’t mean you have to give it away right away. I wanted to respect the fact that one person had, or one child had, the toy first and to let them finish whatever it is they were doing before they shared it. So I would start with my index finger saying wait, right. So if my youngest at that time let’s say he was 18 months was playing with the toy I’m sorry his brother, his older brother, was playing with the toy, then I would show my toddler wait, wait, hold on, let him play with it. And when he would be, we would try to minimize that time at the beginning, just because obviously 30 seconds is really long for an 18 month old. And then my middle child or his older brother would share the toy with him. I would say, yay, he shared, thank you. And then after I would ask my older kids to ask their younger brother for the toy. So they would put their hand out and I would tell them actually, wait, this one is playing, he’s playing with it, let him finish. So I would try to have the shared language or the similar language for what I was asking from him and what I was asking from his older siblings. That became a sort of a game where waiting became the game and that led to him understanding at 18 months or at a young age that he had to wait to play with a toy. It didn’t work 100% of the time. They’re still kids and sometimes that toy their older sibling is playing with is really exciting and they wanna play with it. But on average it worked really well to teach them how to share and that was a system that we maintained in our home. So now my kids are four, six and eight. There isn’t really much arguing when it comes to toys and sharing. However, what we did before, I would say up to about a year ago obviously with the two younger ones there were some arguments around sharing, but they were minimal because the first question I would ask when they get in an argument was who took the toy first. Sometimes that will lead to an argument with them because it was a discussion of who took it first, but often they knew who had it first and then, even if the other one who had to wait was disappointed, I would support their emotions and I would say I know it’s not fun waiting all the time, but that’s part of playing with somebody. Sometimes one needs a certain toy and you wait for your turn. Or are there ways that we can play together right, that you each take turns and not have to wait so long before you can have that toy, and usually that sort of coaching led to them playing together somehow. I am really lucky with three kids in the home being home every day. If you know me and you’ve been listening to this podcast, they have never been to daycare, they are homeschooled and I don’t have to be the referee every day, all day. It happens a limited few times a week, less than a handful of times per week, and now they’re at the point where I just ask a question like who had it first? And they do it themselves. I’ve done all the coaching that I’ve needed to do and they’re able to communicate and problem solve together in a way that they can solve it on their own and figure out who has it now and who gets to play with it after. So it is. They are skills that we need to teach them. All right, so this episode was a little different. I’ve never had to come on to explain something that I’ve posted, but I did and I hope that it is a little bit more clear to you and I hope that you do have a few tips now that you could use in your home. That game of mine and yours and the waiting game and the coaching children to you know how to kind of speak to each other and to be kind and to take their turns and wait for their turn. I know that sharing is a big topic within homes when we have siblings, but let’s kind of. Instead of seeing it as a behavioral thing and getting mad at them, let’s coach them. It’s a skill that we need to teach them. That was the whole point of this post and this episode. Thank you for listening to the KerasDomcast podcast.

Cindy:

If you are enjoying the podcast, please take a moment to subscribe and to rate it or review it. If you’re listening on Spotify or an Apple podcast, send me an email, send me a screenshot or let me know that you rated it or reviewed it and, in an appreciation, I wanna send you something for free. It’s a PDF that we have on our website for $10. I know it’s not much, but it’s my way of saying thank you for listening and for taking the time to rate it and review it, because each and every single rating and review allows me to get sponsored and to literally continue the podcast, so that’s how meaningful it is. You can send me an email at info at kerasdomcom, or just send me an email to say hi, I wanna know who I’m speaking to and I absolutely love knowing who I’m talking to and your background and your kids and what you do, and so don’t be shy, please send me an email. Thank you again for listening. I hope you have a beautiful and wonderful week and I will see you next Monday. Bye.


Takeaway:

  1. Sharing is a prosocial skill that develops later than we realize in children
  2. Although a child might give you a toy they have, the true reason for sharing something develops closer to 3 or 4 years of age
  3. I offer tips to support your child in developing this skill

Understanding your child’s behaviour

Cindy Hovington, Ph.D.Cindy Hovington, Ph.D.June 24, 2024

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