Following up on Lyn's suggestions I borrowed one last step from my daughter's daycare: After helping the child who wants a turn to speak directly to the current user, letting them know they would like to play with the item when they are done, I would help the waiting child engage in a different activity, and make it clear to all the children that hovering around isn't how we do things. (There are generally two outcomes here, either user 1 is anxious and can't enjoy their play, or user 1 enjoys the act of withholding from their classmate. Occasionally there is a third outcome: they decide to play together, which is cool, but I prefer to ask them at the outset if they would like to try that.)
As we have all probably observed, often the waiting child gets completely engaged in different play and no longer cares about their turn. Just as often, user 1 will lose interest and drop the item without warning. However, I make it a point, as much as humanly possible, to keep track of the situation, to watch for when user 1 becomes disinterested, and help them remember to bring the item over as promised to the child who had asked.This is about training, and it pays off in the long run. We are teaching children to communicate: to ask, to listen, and to follow through for each other. It is fine if the waiting child no longer cares to use the item, I congratulate them both on the follow through and see that they both feel good that they have kept their word to each other. Over time, this becomes set behavior and I don't have to orchestrate as much. This is one important way we can help to build happy, trusting relationships among peers. This is a lifetime social-emotional skill, and is worth the great effort it takes.
Developmental science, especially information about the brain-neurobiology-is finding more and more things that 'blame the mother.' That can also feel like blame of childcare workers. It's important to remember that early childhood educators are doing much better than the just babysitting that was common in the recent past. Early childhood caregivers are my sheroes, and sometimes heroes.
Neurobiology is also making it clear that no one is to blame. Like children who make mistakes because they haven't learned better, adults' behavior is a product of what they have learned, not learned well enough, or not learned at all. Like children, our responsibility as adults is just to learn to do better.
I've made two posts about the science of early child development. Both could have affected the discussion, but neither did. I may have tried too hard not to be confrontational. The situation of caregivers not paying attention to child development information is concerning to me.
Next month I'll be presenting a piece of this issue at the Mountain West Early Childhood conference in Billings, Montana. I'll be suggesting that we use the phrase "Current Developmentally Appropriate Practice," in place of our current concept of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). One of my three illustrations is concerning what we learned about synchronicity from a research article.
In this article mothers with five-month old infants were just observed teaching their child to pay attention to a bright object. The behaviors of about half of the mothers was called "synchronous." They didn't push attention to the object, only gave more attention to their infant who already had their attention when the object was attended to. The other mothers pushed their child to attend to the object. Their behavior was called "intrusive."
The huge outcome came when these infants were tested when they were three years old. The children raised by synchronous mothers had learned to regulate emotional and impulsivity. The other children had not. If I had added this information to the discussion of problems regarding children learning to share, it may have had more influence than just warning that sharing is not normally well understood by children until they're at least five years old.