Should You Make Your Children Share?

This article is based on my personal experience, if you have questions about your child’s behavior and development please turn to your pediatrician as the internet is not a good place to diagnose or treat conditions. I have not been sponsored.
Surrender, Share, Take Turns

     I was recently asked the question; Should you make your children share? Situation; We were at the playground and I watched one child run up to another child…and take the toy from his hands. He started to cry. A few moments later his Mom approached the upset child and said “now honey, you have to share your toys!” I thought, that’s bullshit! Perhaps I have a totally different definition of sharing because what I witnessed is pillage and surrender, not sharing. If I was out at Target and someone walked over and stole my Starbucks…I’d cry too!
     I think we’ve all been in a similar situation. A sibling, playmate or other child takes a toy out of your child’s hands, and we have to decide how to respond. We have several options:

1. Tell the child to allow the other child to have the toy without argument; as the Mom in this instance did and told her son it was sharing.(Surrender)
2. Instruct the child who wants the toy ‘shared’ to return it to you child…hope they comply.
3. Locate the child’s parent (if it’s not your child) and inform them of what happened, Hope that they share your values and use the moment to teach their child, and have the toy returned.
4. Do nothing, and hope the children resolve the issue on their own.
5. Get possession of the toy, bring both children together and teach them how to play with the toy together (Share).
6. Get possession of the toy, bring the children together and explain taking turns, return the toy to the original child and let them both know that when it is the other child’s turn, the toy will exchange hands. (Taking turns)

     I think first we must look at the definition of sharing. Sharing an object occurs when two or more people enjoy it at the same time (according to Wikipedia). What happened in the earlier instance is Not sharing….it’s surrendering a toy to another child who is taking it without permission or desire for the original toy holder to give away this toy. Now, teaching a child about surrender isn’t always a bad thing because hey, sometimes life isn’t fair and even adults have things taken from them without their permission. Ever have someone eat your yogurt in the fridge at work? Have a relative help themselves to the $20 in your pant pocket? Have your car or home broken into and your personal items “shared” with a thief? Similar adult situation.

     Children are dealing with different emotions and immature systems (when compared to some, but not all adults) and often exhibit behaviors including impulsitivity and decreased awareness to other’s feelings and their environment. These are insights that should develop over time, and can be influenced by teaching. What we have to decide as parents is how our children learn these lessons. Will your child learn not to take a toy from another child when he/she is punched by that child? Or will you help teach and mold these skills as your pumpkin grows and develops. Ultimately, someone will do the teaching and as a parent you may be able to control the context of the learning environment.

     With three young boys I have surrender, share, taking turns teaching opportunities all the time. I do not always respond the same way for several reasons. On one hand, I want my children to be able to handle their own battles. However, I believe many of these skills are learned and not acquired. I’d rather my son learn how to share through my teaching, then through numerous trial and error attempts.
     I want my children to share, especially when it’s with an expensive item like the Ipad (I am fairly uninterested in purchasing each child their own Ipad). I love when they all play a game together, laughing and having a great time. This is especially true since I don’t hand it out often and don’t want everyone to have too much screen time. This is the ideal sharing situation. However, when my younger child (22m) is playing with it, and my older (3y) old child goes over and without warning pulls it from his hands…I make it an opportunity to teach. I first ask my older child if he had asked his younger brother for a turn with the toy. I tell him that if he wants to play with it too, he must ask my 22 m/o to share the toy. If he doesn’t do this on his own, I take the possession of the toy and bring everyone together. I help with the dialogue and have one child ask if it’s okay to have a turn (is more or less words). The answer to this question can be NO, and that’s okay too. If my younger son doesn’t want to share the toy, that’s fine, he was playing with it first and he doesn’t have to share. Usually, he is happy to share and I explain to both boys that they must take turns and/or use the toy together. I much rather this sharing then the typical toy pillage and surrender I see often with children (and some adults).
     I hope that these experiences will help them grow and develop into understanding and patient adults, who respect and understand others’ feelings. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how our teachings as parents will impact the growth and development of our children. I, like many other parents, try my best and hope that I am making the right decisions.

     So now I ask; How do you handle Sharing? As always, thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

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