The 'me' generation
Does money cause conflicts in your house? Recent research shows that just having a dollar sign appear on a computer screen makes people think more individualistically.
So how do we counter this tendency towards a self-interested outlook? How can we help create moments where our children are required to think and act more communally and co-operatively?
If parents are confronted with two kids squabbling over sharing something – a bottle of bubbles, for example – we often can’t think past the goal of stopping the bickering. So we solve the problem by buying bubbles for each child. Unfortunately, this quick fix promotes an “every kid for themself” attitude rather than a “one for all – all for one” co-operative outlook. By making sure each child has their own everything, we miss an important learning opportunity in sharing and the need to get along.
I remember one day when my girls were young and they were flipping through the toy catalogue together. They discovered a remote-operated car set they both wanted. Full of excitement, they asked how much it cost. I watched their faces drop with the disappointing reality that neither of them had enough money to buy it.
But wait, maybe there was a solution. I suggested the girls pool their money and buy the cars together.
By sharing the cost, my daughters were given an opportunity to learn that they could do together what neither could do alone. They needed one another. They also discovered that, if you want to share with someone, you’d better remain on good terms. Ah ha! New reasons for getting along were becoming apparent to them.
My girls also learned about the responsibility of joint ownership and the rules of fair sharing. I am not saying it was easy. I heard lots of moaning to the tune of “Hey, it’s my turn now – I own that too!” I accepted that this was part of the educational experience as they worked together to resolve their conflicts.
By sharing, kids learn important lessons of co-operation, which counter the tendency to be self-interested. Being tied together in joint ownership requires them to work as a team instead of being at cross purposes. That is what early training in co-operation is all about.