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Man. Debates in the world of parenthood have become so rampant that even a concept as simple as sharing is now constantly being debated. I see both sides of the argument. On the one hand I consider sharing to be a social skill. It teaches putting others before ourselves. On the other, I see how being made to give someone something just because they want it can reinforce the entitlement mindset so common in our culture.
I’ve thought a good bit on both perspectives and have come to a place of common ground that works best for my family and fits best with my personal values.
In our house: we share. However, this sharing has stipulations attached:
First: The child who is wishing to play with the item another child is playing with must ask kindly. Kid 1 has a toy that Kid 2 wants. Kid 2 must nicely ask Kid 1 “can I play with the toy?”
Second: Not only must they ask kindly (no snatching!) but they must also add the phase “when you are finished” to their question.
Kid 2 doesn’t get to just have a turn at the toy because they feel like it. They aren’t entitled to that toy. They must ask. They must ask kindly. And they must wait for Kid 1 to be finished playing with it.
This teaches our children not to snatch things or whine or pitch a fit when they want something. It also teaches them we must ask for what we want in life. We can’t expect people to read our minds or know what we are wanting. We can’t act out when we want something and expect others to then give us what we’re wanting either. We must ask and we must show kindness when we do.
It also teaches our children patience. They don’t get instant gratification of having the toy they want right when they want it. They have to wait to be able to play with the toy.
Third: When asked the question from Kid 2 of “Can I play with that toy when you are finished?” Kid 1 must answer with YES.
They don’t get to hoard the toy forever. They can’t sneak off and hide it in their rooms just so Kid 2 doesn’t get a turn. It’s important for our children to learn kindness and to have giving hearts. Kid 1 obviously loves and enjoys that toy if they are currently playing with it so they should also find joy in seeing Kid 2 enjoy playing with it.
We should all always do out best to find a way in disagreements where both parties walk away happy. And Kid 1 getting to play with the toy and then getting to see Kid 2 enjoy that same toy is a win-win.
The typical result in our home is that both Kid 1 and Kid 2 leave the situation happy. Kid 1 finishes playing with the toy and then hands it over to Kid 2 who often by that point isn’t even wanting to play with the toy any longer or has completely forgotten all about it! Do you know what else often happens after this exchange? Kid 1 volunteers to go ahead and let Kid 2 play. They don’t feel forced into it, but they genuinely want to share. When we ask nicely, people respond nicely too 🙂
When going through this exercise with my children I love that it allows me to give them BOTH praise. I can praise Kid 2 for asking so nicely. Then I can praise Kid 1 for responding in love. They walk away feeling proud and happy and I walk away also feeling proud and happy too. It’s not just a win for each child, but a mama win too and aren’t those the best kind?
This is not something I do outside of our home. I don’t go up to stranger children and tell them they need to ask nicely before my kid will share. Regarding children outside of our home? I try not to really bring any of our toys into those types of situations. When we play at the playground, we leave toys at home. When we swim in a community pool, we don’t bring any pool toys with us. As far as classroom settings go, I let the teacher decide how to handle sharing concerns among students. All I can do is parent my children and hope that my methods flow out from our home and create children who naturally are kind, compassionate, and have giving hearts with everyone they meet!
What are your thoughts on sharing? How do you teach it in your home?