January 24, 2011

On Sharing

I saw a tweet today from Rational Jenn about sharing.  The tweet itself had a link, which I didn't check out, but the question was "What should you do when other people try to force their kids to share or give stuff to your kids?"

This reminded me of something I've recently wondered about sharing - do we always have to share?  I mean, this is a big topic with parents of young kids.  Sometimes you hear them make excuses, "Oh he's just learning how to share."  Or perhaps they are correcting their child, "You must learn how to share."  I never really questioned the concept until my kids starting turning it back on me.   It became even more obvious when I began counting calories to lose weight.  I portioned out my food very precisely and sharing it meant my counts were off.  I began trying to explain why I wasn't going to give them some of my food, and somewhere in the explanations I realized that people shouldn't always have to share.  That sharing should be a choice.

I found myself looking for opportunities in which I could share things, and talking about it when I did.  Then later, when it was something that I was not going to give them a part of, I could explain why without feeling guilty.  I also began reevaluating my responses to the kids when they didn't want share something.  Instead of a blanket "you have to do this because it's polite" I tried to talk to them about it.  For example:  Funny Girl gets a new toy for her birthday and doesn't want to share it with Dimples.  Dimples and I talk about how cool the new toy is, and how she wishes she had one just like it.  How special it must be for Funny Girl to now have one.  Usually just talking about it helps, but sometimes Dimples doesn't care about all that, she wants to play with it too!  However, Funny Girl doesn't have to share until she is ready.  Somehow just knowing that it's her choice changes everything.  Now Funny Girl wants to let Dimples play too; not always, but most of the time.

Now before we bring anything over to a friend's house, or invite anyone over to our house, we talk about if we are ready to let others play with our things.  Any food we bring is always talked about in terms of our willingness to share.  And we've left things at home before when we've decided that we want these things just for ourselves.  Over time though, I've noticed this happening less and less.  We all want to share the things that make us happy because we want to make others happy too.  New things get talked about in terms of when so and so can play with it too!

We haven't eliminated sharing arguments completely.  A frequent issue that comes up here is markers.  No one seems particularly fond of putting the caps back on markers, so they dry out.  Then when a new box of markers is purchased the owner doesn't want to share them.  In our house there are common areas where everything belongs to everyone, and we also have our own spaces.  If the markers are left in the common areas then they can be used by everyone.  If the markers are in put away in your personal area, then only you can get them.  But as with most kids, it's much easier to make a mess than to clean it up.  Markers get left out, others use them, and fighting ensues.
I figure we'll get there eventually or they'll grow up and move out.    :)

Of course, none of that answers the original question about parents forcing their kids to share.  Since I can't do anything about other parents, I hope I can just teach my children to be polite and thankful when it happens.  Hopefully that kindness will soften the sharing just a little bit.


  1. We have a similar approach to sharing our personal stuff; if it's left out it's fair game, if it's in your personal space it's hands-off...at least that's the theory. I gave up the "blanket sharing" approach after realizing I didn't not want to share all of my stuff with the kids. And, I agree that giving the kids the option to share or not helps them be more willing to share. - Mo

  2. Good stuff. :)

    I have never forced my child to share. Sharing is always a choice. Heck, everything in life is a choice.

  3. Thanks Lenette! It seems so simple, ya know? But when I was a new mom with Robotson it seemed like there weren't many choices. I'm a happier parent now for sure :)