Over the last few months, I read articles about why some parents aren’t teaching their child to share. At first, I thought what a stupid idea but the more I read, the more I can see their reasoning. I understand that there are limits to sharing and we need to teach our children those limits both as the giver and the receiver. If the toy is a “community toy” as in a day care setting, sharing it would be automatic because it doesn’t belong to the child to decide who plays with it and who doesn’t. What is the toy is the child’s personal property? Do you teach automatic sharing? During my research, I’ve come up with three limits to sharing: kindness not obligation, teaching boundaries, and curbing the entitlement culture.
First, sharing should be out of kindness not obligation. If my daughter wants to share her toys it will be out of the goodness of her heart rather than because I told her so. If we force children to share toys they aren’t done playing with or doesn’t want to share, we are teaching them obligation. “I need to share the toy because Mommy said so” and not because she wants to. When we allow a child to share out of kindness, the child learns generosity and seeing the joy of someone else enjoying the toy as well. One day, one of the neighborhood boys came to me and told me that Abby wasn't sharing whatever toy it was at the time. I know he was thinking she would get in trouble and he would have the toy next. When I told him that the toy belong to Abby and she decided who played with it and when. I've also done the opposite and told Abby that a toy which belongs to another child needs to be returned when he or she wants it back.
Second, a child is not obligated to share just because another child says “please.” The child is being polite; however, no is a perfectly legitimate response. I think it does a child a great disservice to teach that he or she can have something simply because he or she wants it and said please. We need to teach children that because you want something doesn’t mean you’ll get it and help them cope with disappointment because it will happen. Life isn’t fair. Someone will get something you want before you can get it. As adults, we don’t automatically share our property because someone asks. If an adult says, “No, you can’t borrow (fill in the blank),” nothing is thought as the adult is being unfair but when a child says no, he or she is being mean. Why is it okay to say no as an adult but not as a child?
Third, we’ve become an entitlement culture. Life, the universe or God does not owe you anything. Parents, society or others do not owe you anything. A child needs to learn there are consequences for his or her actions. The “I want it now and I don’t want to work for it” attitude needs to stop. Now that my daughter is playing more with the neighborhood kids, I see the entitlement attitudes more and more especially “I want it because everyone else has it.” One day, my mom brought home a cupcake mix to make with my daughter. After they were done, of course, my daughter wanted one. I gave her one and soon I was bombarded with kids asking for cupcakes. When I told them no, for reasons of safety, not knowing food restrictions and parents’ allowances, they said “But she got one.” Why do they think because I gave my daughter something, it means that I will or have to give them one? I also didn’t want to set a precedence that they would expect to eat at my house when I know Abby doesn’t get the same consideration at theirs.
I know we are in the holiday season and the season of giving; however, I feel that sharing and giving should be out of the kindness of our hearts instead of an obligation. If it becomes an obligation, the true spirit of giving is lost. We need to teach our children that saying “please” is being polite but it isn’t the magical word to automatically get it. We need to live in a culture in which yes means yes and no means no without comments of being unfair or being mean. Establishing boundaries of giving when we want to protects is from being taken advantage of. If I were to ask a favor, I hope for a yes but I also expect a no. I will be disappointed with a no response but I understand that it is the other person’s right to deny my request. Why aren’t we teaching our children this principle?