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Caring is sharing

It seems to me that if you strike a deal that absolutely everyone is unhappy with, in equal measure, on either side, there has to be a possibility that the deal is fair. After a fascinating week in politics, I’m sure the Prime Minister would agree.

The same principle is at play at school when it comes to homework. Parent surveys tend to suggest that no one is happy with the amount of homework set by the school, with around half saying there’s too much, whilst everyone else thinks there’s not enough. The fact is, that in leadership, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Compromises have to be made.

Learning to compromise is one of the essential skills we teach our children in the early years, where the words ‘he’s not sharing!’ and ‘it’s not fair!’ can frequently be heard. At this age, ‘he’s not sharing’ can loosely be translated as ‘he’s not giving me what I want’ and ‘it’s not fair’ as ‘I don’t want to’. Turn taking is practised and encouraged through games and role play, which generally the children get pretty good at – so long as they can go first.

So how do you decide who goes first? Many years ago, I used to be a fan of the idea that youngest goes first, but these days I tend to view this differently. Throwing a six is traditional, but as we all know, when you really want a six it’s virtually impossible to throw one, and I’ve never been very good at rock, paper, scissors. I like the idea that the one who goes second, gets two goes. This delayed gratification is interesting to observe. I love the social experiment where children are offered a sweet, but told they can have more if they are prepared to wait – a tough decision when you are four.

My sister and I were sticklers for making sure things were always shared fairly, often to the nearest crumb, applying the principle that one person pours/breaks/divides, whilst the other chooses. With the stakes so high, there is a real incentive to get things divided equally.

‘Fairness’ is a very important concept for children and so often it is the cause of anger and upset. The reality however is that things often aren’t fair, so the next important lesson is to support children to recognise this and make allowances. Children will notice that it’s the child struggling to regulate their behaviour who gets the most praise and the best rewards, whilst those that behave impeccably can be overlooked. It amazes me how children understand why this is necessary and accept this.

The problems of sharing equally can only really be overcome when we learn to take pleasure from seeing the joy that can come from our generosity. Offering up the larger share, the opportunity to go first or the last Rolo is a good feeling – and as they get a bit older, our children generally get pretty good at this. This may of course be that they start to see the bigger picture and understand that such acts of generosity generally lead to favours returned!

So, if our children can do it, let’s hope that the politicians can follow suit, leave self-interest behind and negotiate a path through the mess that is Brexit, for the benefit of everyone.

William