To Share or Not to Share

“YOU have been using that for a long time, it is your sister’s turn.” two children fighting over a toy
“Yes, it is yours, but let your brother use it for a little.”
“Be nice! SHARE.”

I know that being able to share is an important virtue, and one that we hold in very high regard. But I ask this: Do you take blocks away from a child who has been working oh-so-diligently for half an hour already, with a clear plan of the desired result?

Yup, you read that right: working. Should the work of a child who is trying to create something that has been thought through from start to finish be sacrificed? Are we asking a child to share OR give something of theirs or something that they are using away? Hmmmm, let’s see what you think.

Let’s put this in grown-up terms. If you are playing solitaire and your spouse asks for some of your cards, are you required to give them up? How would you finish your game without all of the cards?

What if you are reading a book and someone else around you wants to read a book? Must you give them the book? Is that not the same scenario as when grown ups ask a child to share blocks, cars, and other toys when they are in the middle of solo play?

Have I rocked your world with this no sharing talk? Are you thinking, “This woman is crazy. Is she really telling me NOT to have my child learn how to SHARE?”

Oh no, no, no. Children need to learn to share. (You have met those grown-ups who never learned that lesson, right? Yikes.) Children need to learn, as grown-ups do, that they are a part of a larger community and all does not belong to them because they see it, touch it, or want it.

It is possible to promote sharing while also respecting solo play.

Promote sharing at the beginning of an activity.
children in sandbox sharingWhen two children are headed to play with blocks at the same time, that is a great opportunity to discuss sharing. Ask them how they would like to divide up the blocks? Are they building together? Or you can simply let them play and point out positive sharing moments to reinforce the wonderful sharing behavior.

Promote sharing when a child is in the middle of a solitary activity.
An adult (or a child) can ask if the engaged child would like to share. Maybe one child can build a garage, while another builds a house. Perhaps one child could wash the cars and the other parks them. You get the gist.

So mentor away. We WANT kids who share. We just want to make sure that what we are actually asking them to do is share.

The Problem with Sharing

Another way to see sharing through a child’s eyes is this: When a toy is being shared, one child has gained something while the other has lost something. Many times when a new child arrives into a situation, the playing child is asked to involve the newcomer and share her toys. For example:

child playing solo with blocksIf Amy is building a stable to hold her horses out of blocks and she is asked to share, how does it feel from Amy’s point of view? She had to hand over her materials from her project to give them to someone else.

When was the last time you walked into someone’s home who was knitting and their significant other took some of their yarn and gave it to you? You would think that was kinda weird right? Like, really weird. The knitter was in the middle of something and now he/she will not be able to finish. Yet many adults have such disregard for the work of a young child.

In Summary – To Share or Not to Share

So, you have reached the end and may be thinking, “Now what? Do I make my kid share or not?” Ahhh, well like everything in life, sharing is not a black-and-white situation. Each situation is as different as each child.

Keep in mind that sharing is as equally important a lesson as respecting the work of another. The next time that you find yourself in the familiar situation of to share or not to share, see which lesson best applies. Parenting is not about finding absolute and “right” answers. It is about finding enough tools for your tool belt, so that when your next project arises, the tools are there for you to choose from.

by Brandi Davis
Child and Family Coaching
Contributor to MommyBites

____________________________________________________________
 
<recommended books about toddlers

<all our recommended parenting books
 

If you found this article helpful, click here to make a donation to The Center for Parenting Education. Your support will enable us to continue to provide quality information free of charge.

 

<return to top of page

<additional articles in the Baby through Preschool series

<Library of Articles topic page