What if sharing isn’t caring?

I’m in a state of inner turmoil.

I’ve read something with which I strongly disagree and, because I feel so conflicted by it, I’m not sure if I’m being silly or someone else is being silly.

Help me? (It’s about sharing.)

There’s a mom, Beth, who proudly explains that she (and her kid’s school) follow a strict no-sharing policy, of which these are the basics:

  • A child can keep a toy or use a piece of equipment (that doesn’t belong to him) as long as he wants to. If another child wants it, she has to wait until he is done with it.

My gut feel: Huh? What happened to taking turns? Who decides when the first child is ‘done’? Can this go on all day?

  • If a child owns something that someone else wants to play with, she does not have to hand it over. The item belongs to her and when someone asks her to share it, “No” is a legitimate response.

My gut feel: What about sharing with friends/siblings? What about learning to give and take? And if you’re entertaining a friend on a playdate? Yikes. That’s just bad form/shoddy hospitality.

 Interesting. And why does she feel this way? Because, she says:

  • It does a child a disservice to teach him that he can have something someone else has, just because he wants it. This is not how things work in the real world. You wouldn’t push in front of someone in the supermarket line just because you don’t feel like waiting.

My gut feel: I agree, in principle. But an individual also can’t indefinitely monopolise a communal resource. That’s just selfish. And our dog-eat-dog, me-first world is selfish enough.

  • In the child’s adult life, she’s going to think she’s owed everything she sees. “This is already happening in the next generation,’ says Beth, “[t]oday’s teens and 20-somethings are expecting raises and promotions at their jobs for reasons like, ‘I show up every day.’”

My gut feel: Yes, entitlement is a curse of our age. But I don’t see how early childhood sharing even vaguely relates to this. We should instead teach kids not to be spoilt, over-indulged brats.

  • Children need to learn to cope with disappointment and to get things they want through diligence, patience, and hard work.

My gut feel: This is true. But they also need to learn to give, to sacrifice, to serve others, and to follow the rules – which, as far as I can remember, include ‘Treat others as you’d like to be treated.’


Sharing is warped.

I get that sharing has, over time, become a bit warped and that ‘one minute for you, one minute for me’ is no fun for either party. But a blanket rule against sharing feels like regulating the wrong things when it comes to parenting – and abandoning the good that can, and should, come from learning fairness.

Is it about waiting?

Some of the more renegade parenting experts say that the no-sharing rule teaches waiting; that waiting is an excellent life skill; and that learning to control behaviour and express intense feelings appropriately is the main job of early childhood. Great. Sounds good. But aren’t there other, more effective ways to teach children patience, self-control and healthy self-expression?

What we do…

In my house, there are certain toys my little one doesn’t have to hand over, like sentimental family hand-me-downs or a really special birthday gift. But everything else, including stuff that we choose to take to (or use at) parks, playgrounds, parties or play dates, is fair game for everyone else.

Now, I don’t know if this is ‘the right way’. But I do know that the other way feels wrong to me. And that, for as long as I’m going to be parenting an only child, she’s going to be sharing her stuff, whether she wants to or not.

It’s about fairness.

My thinking is that each child should have her turn, for a fair period of time. Fairness is the key, as is teaching the emotional intelligence to gauge that as our kids grow up. It shouldn’t be about banning sharing, in case someone gets it wrong. That’s like banning sunblock from beaches, in case the kids eat it.


*This post originally appeared on jozikids.co.za.