Janet Beales Kaidantzis
Ever seen two children quarreling over a toy? Such squabbles had been commonplace in Katherine Hussman Klemp’s household. But in the Sesame Street Parent’s Guide she tells how she created peace in her family of eight children by assigning property rights to toys.
As a young mother, Klemp often brought home games and toys from garage sales. “I rarely matched a particular item with a particular child,” she says. “Upon reflection, I could see how the fuzziness of ownership easily led to arguments. If everything belonged to everyone, then each child felt he had a right to use anything.”
To solve the problem, Klemp introduced two simple rules: First, never bring anything into the house without assigning clear ownership to one child. The owner has ultimate authority over the use of the property. Second, the owner is not required to share. Before the rules were in place, Klemp recalls, “I suspected that much of the drama often centered less on who got the item in dispute and more on whom Mom would side with.” Now, property rights, not parents, settle the arguments.
Instead of teaching selfishness, the introduction of property rights actually promoted sharing. The children were secure in their ownership and knew they could always get their toys back. Adds Klemp, “‘Sharing’ raised their self-esteem to see themselves as generous persons.”