Sharing can be a difficult concept for young children to understand. We expect them to give something that they really want to someone else, just because they want it too. One thing I will not be doing as a parent is forcing my little boy to share his things. Most of the time, he will share his toys with me and with other children, which I want. I want him to be able to feel okay with the decision that he is making. If he doesn’t want to give me something though, I won’t be forcing him to.
I’ve heard it many times, when an adult tells a child that “they must share” and “you have to share”. Although sharing is a learning journey that all children will experience, is it really right to force a child to hand over something that is special to them at that moment? What is it really teaching? That when somebody asks you for something, you have to give it to them. That’s not how the world works.
What we should be teaching children is that saying “no” is okay too. No child should feel like they have to say yes because of the consequences if they don’t. A child should be free to make their own choices and be able to feel comfortable in sharing their things.
If you think about it from an adult’s point of view. If someone came round to your house and said they really liked it, you wouldn’t then say yes to them moving into the spare bedroom. It’s not how the world works, so why do we teach children that it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I actively encourage sharing and will encourage it at every opportunity. I want my child to know that when he goes to school and there’s things there for everyone, these things must be shared. I want him to realise that sharing with someone can make them happy. Also, I want him to know that possessions that belong to him are his, and he doesn’t have to give them to anyone unless he wants to.
It’s important for any individual to establish boundaries, and know what we are comfortable with and what we are not. As parents, we should act more of a teacher, than a dictator. Give children the knowledge of how to share and the benefits that it brings, and then allow them to make their own choices. Applying this method can then allow you as a parent to find out more about your child. What they are okay with and what they are not.
If your child doesn’t want to share, then you can talk to them and ask them why they didn’t want to. This might be the conversation they need to understand their own feelings and what emotions they are experiencing. Maybe the child that wants their toy is often mean to them, in which case why would you want to share with them? Maybe that particular toy is special to them and they don’t want anyone else to play with it too roughly and break it. It’s important for children to talk about their feelings.
This goes for my child too. If he was to ever demand a toy off someone else because ‘they have to share’, I will be explaining the same thing to him. Sometimes, you just have to accept that you can’t have something because it is somebody else’s. This is the rule that adults follow, so why shouldn’t children follow it?
So what are the thoughts of parents on Twitter:
Ourfavouritejar: “I think it’s so important to teach children to share as I feel it promotes patience and kindness as well as the ability to share. They do need to know that they do have a choice though”.
Mercer Carlin: “Yes, children need choice. “You must share” can turn into thinking they have to give hugs and that their bodies are not theirs. Agency matters. Also, I’ve heard that sharing is not a graspable concept for a long time and that taking turns makes more sense to a child’s brain”.
Tammy: “I don’t understand why kids are asked to share, but no one forces adults to. Why do we expect better behavior from children than we do from adults?”
MomofTwoLittleGirls: “My youngest (5) doesn’t mind sharing, buts she expects people to ask first. She really hates it when people take food from her without asking first. I respect this because she is right. If they don’t ask first I don’t force her to share”.
I want sharing to be a nice gesture for my child, and I want him to enjoy doing it. It’s the same with anything. If you force someone to do something, there’s a high chance that they will end up hating it. I will always encourage my child to share, but if he doesn’t want to, then that’s okay too.