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Share Not

I don't believe in forcing children to give up their toys just so others can play with them.  There, I said it.  Maybe now you think I'm a terror or I'm raising one (haha! You may be right).

Little L is stubborn personified, but in leggings and a cute little T-shirt.  That is who she is.  Even her doting, loving grandparents will concede that the girl is "determined."  Yep, understatement of the century.  They really mean stubborn.

So, to ask a determined and very aware little girl to give up the toy that she's playing with, to some yahoo she doesn't give two hoots about - well, it's just not gonna happen.  And I'm not going to make it happen.

Why? Not because I want to raise an entitled monster (and I don't), but because in grown up life, sharing in that form is not required nor is it a good idea.  I mean, do you surrender the cash in your pocket when some vagrant comes up to you and asks for it? Do you loan out your brand spanking new Lexus to someone just because they need a car for the day? You don't.  And nobody expects you to, although maybe there is a small population of selfless people who will actually say yes to these things (in which case, do you have $1000 I can "borrow"?).

So why do we expect our little people to share the toys that they're in the middle of playing with? Why do you want them to let some drooly, careless kid handle what to them is their most prized possessions?  It's a crap lesson to "teach" your child since a) I'm pretty sure you don't model it in your life anyway, and b) it's a lesson that has limited applicability in real-world contexts anyway.

That said, I do believe that it is possible to teach good social skills without forcing a child to share.  One very excellent method of doing this is to teach our kids how to find alternatives, and to offer these as replacements to the people asking them for their stuff.  Like, an alternative is to give the homeless person a sandwich or the card to the nearest shelter.  Or to offer to drive your friend where they need to go, or get them in touch with someone who can score them a great rate at Zipcar.

On a little kid scale, this looks more like: No, you can't play with my ball, but how about you play with this other ball?  No, you can't eat my snack, but I'll ask my Mommy to bring you a snack for yourself.  Or, when Little L is the one doing the wanting, I will try to redirect her attention to an alternative that is as good if not better than whatever she wanted in the first place.

A really great book that teaches this is Karen Katz' I Can Share, which is actually a bit of a misnomer because the book really isn't about sharing, but about finding win-win solutions in situations where little people won't share.  I highly recommend this lift-the-flap book to start the conversation on sharing with your toddler.  Little L *loves* her book.

But if we end up on a playdate together, don't expect that I will force your kid or mine to share.  That said, I do encourage parents to help their children find alternatives to resolve conflict situations.  If you force my kid to share, however, then be prepared for her wrath.  I'm just sayin.'


Sharon said…
I totally see your point and your illustrations. I don't recommend children sharing some of their personal effects either. I also agree that teaching conflict resolution at this young age is very valuable.

However... what happens when the item in question isn't a child's personal effect? How will you teach her that the swing on the playground for example, ought to be shared even if she wants to swing the entire time she's there? I think the life principles you're trying to teach her in this situation touches on many more circumstances to come! Definitely worth contending with these matters at a young age... Siblings might come in handy, haha :)

And I love Karen Katz' books more now as a parent, than as a teacher! Who would've thunk it?
Kitten said…
I agree that I also don't force my children to give up toys they are playing with and enjoying if there is only a single toy of that type. However, at public train tables, I don't let my son run giant strings of trains such that others can't play with them. This has happened to us where a mom ignores her child who plays with about fifteen trains and the child cries if my son asks for one or two. At a public train table such as this, we tell my son that unless he is alone at the table, there are limits to how many he can play with.

Additionally, as Sharon above points out -- there are other applications to be considered. Sure, I might not loan out my car to someone or give up a seat at a concert, but if I'm just lounging at Starbucks and I'm nearly done my cup of coffee, I might get up if there are no more tables and someone looks like they'd like to sit down. Or if the person next to me at the library asked if they could borrow my USB cord for a second, I might let them even if I don't know them.

My mom would force me to share with other kids and she went to extremes that probably did harm my sense of sharing, but I don't think it has to be taken to that extent.
Mrs. Loquacious said…
Okay, perhaps I wasn't very clear in my original post. I am not against sharing as a principle or a practice. I am against forcing my child, or any child, to do it when they don't want to. And I don't think that making someone share when they don't want to is sincere nor practical in real life.

Of course we share with others as grown ups. And there are times when I hope that Little L will be a compassionate and empathetic individual who will want to share her snack with the boy who has none, or her toys with the kid who doesn't have anything to play with. However, note that in times when we share as adults, we do so of our own volition. Nobody (parent, teacher, boss) is forcing us to share. And I would hope that Little L will choose to share when she wants to, and that she will want to more often than she doesn't want to. I mean, right now she is perfectly happy sharing her apple with her nanny, and her raisins with her Mama and Daddy. It's awesome.

Often I think we are an entitled generation, and this attitude of demanding immediate gratification seems to be passed on to our wee ones. Like, if Little L wants to play with the ball that Sally is playing with right now, then all of a sudden Sally is supposed to share and let Little L play with it because Little L somehow "deserves" to have the ball too. Regardless of whether the ball belongs to Sally or not, I think that finding a compromise or taking turns are both good alternatives to forcing Sally to share.

Recently we've had four situations involving Little L and publicly-owned things that she has wanted to play with (balls, swings). In each of these cases, Little L was not the first to get to the toy. In only one situation did the mom try to force her kid to give up (aka "share") her ball with Little L, and I actually turned her down and told her to let her toddler play with the ball until she was done. Meanwhile, I distracted my girl with other toys and activities and waited for the balls and swings to be free. When it was our turn, I allowed Little L to play with the item until the novelty wore off, and then I offered her the chance to do something different and give someone else a chance at the toy. She complied, excited to do something new.

I don't think this set a bad example for Little L. Rather, it taught her to be patient and wait, and it also provided her with an opportunity to give someone else a turn when she was done. Best of all, she was able to choose to "share" (or take turns, whichever you wish to call it) :)
asphodellium said…
Ashelyn busts out an "avoidance dance" when she doesn't want to give something up. So funny.

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