Friday, September 01, 2006
I also think it's important to understand that young kids' conceptualization of ownership is a very different thing from ours. For a young child, having control of something in one's own hands means owning it. I think that when we ask kids to "lend" or "share yours with her" they are really thinking "it'll be hers for a while and then it'll be mine again." And in our family, I guess we've really not got fussy debunking that fluid sense of ownership. The kids grew into children who just accepted that ascribing sole ownership, within the context of the family, wasn't really something to get one's knickers in a knot over. I've found that my kids do not use possession or ownership as a pawn in situations of rivalry -- I never hear them claiming "no, it's mine and you can't have it!" I might hear "no, I want it right now and you can't have it!" The important difference between these two is that the latter de-escalates as soon as the emotions abate because no one has claimed eternal control over the object. In the former, even once the emotions have calmed, the child still assumes the object falls under his or her control, to things could flare up again at any point. Over the years, in playgrounds and parks, on playdates and out and about, I have heard so many children using the fact of their ownership of something as a weapon against other children. It doesn't seem to happen in our family, thank goodness.
My kids have special things that they treasure, things that they refer to as "mine." These are generally things that have special meaning to each child rather than things that have value in general to all. With the many shared items of value that our family owns I prefer to encourage in the kids the value of responsible custodianship (caring for something well while it is in your possession) rather than the value of pride in ownership.
As I write this I realize that while I didn't set out with a particular policy in mind, the fact that I put more value on custodianship than on ownership has been a guiding principle.
My kids each get their own allowance. For the past three years they've chosen to pool almost all of their allowance to make joint purchases together. I guess that speaks highly of their comfort with our family tendency towards joint, rather than sole, ownership.
Labels: Family Matters