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Should You Teach Kids to Share?

There is a sharing policy at my son's preschool. It's a parent-run co-op, so we have to have policies like this so that we will all handle situations relatively the same way. The policy is that a child can keep a toy as long as they want to. If another child wants the toy, they have to wait until the first child is done with it. We'll even "save" toys for the child if they have to go to the bathroom, go to the snack table, etc. so that it won't get taken before they're done. This applies to anything in the yard or school that can be played with, including swings and monkey bars.

At first, it didn't really occur to me to wonder why this was the policy. I just went with it, because that's the rule, and it didn't seem like a big deal to me. The kids all know the rule, so outside of maybe their first two weeks at the school, they don't throw a giant fit when you tell them, "You can have it when Sally Jo is done." But lately I've been noticing a totally different attitude toward sharing in other places we go, and I'm starting to really know exactly why this is the school's policy.

Two Questionable Sharing Practices

Here are a couple of examples of questionable sharing practices that I've seen recently. The first comes from a good friend of mine. (And I hope she doesn't mind that I use her story as an example.) She and her almost-2-year-old were at the park one day. He had brought a small car from home to play with. Another child, a little bit older, wanted to play with the car and was demanding that my friend's son give him the car. A typical toddler scuffle ensued, and the other mother told her son, "I guess his mom didn't teach him how to share." Never mind the fact that the car belongs to him and that when someone asks you to share, "No" is a perfectly legitimate response.


My second story happened one morning at the local rec center. Friday mornings they fill the gym with tons of Little Tykes climbing structures and those plastic cars they can drive around, tricycles, big balls, even a bouncy castle. Basically a toddler's dream play room. There's this one red car in particular my son really likes playing with, and the last time we went, he drove it around the entire hour and a half we were there. While most of the moms with smaller kids will shadow their kids as they play, my son is old enough now that I can sit on the sidelines and watch. From there I watched a mom whose son wanted to drive the car approach my son repeatedly, saying, "OK, now it's time for you to give him a turn!" Of course he ignored her, and eventually she gave up. There were a million other little cars for her son to drive, including one that was almost identical. Or maybe I would have stepped in at some point.

Real-World Lessons

I don't agree with the approach of the mothers in either of these situations. I think it does a child a great disservice to teach him that he can have something that someone else has, simply because he wants it. And I can understand the desire to give your children everything they want; we all have it. But it's a good lesson for you both to learn that this isn't always possible, and you shouldn't step all over other people to get these things.

Furthermore, this is not how things work in the real world. In your child's adult life, he's going to think he's owed everything he sees. This is already happening in the next generation. I read a fascinating article about how today's teens and 20-somethings are expecting raises and promotions at their jobs for reasons like, "I show up every day."

If you doubt my reasoning, think about your own day-to-day adult life. You wouldn't cut in front of someone in the grocery checkout line just because you didn't feel like waiting. And most grown adults wouldn't take something from someone, like a phone or a pair of sunglasses, just because they wanted to use it. (Well, maybe some of you would. In which case, this post may not be for you.)

It's hard, as with so many things about parenthood, but let's teach our kids how to cope with disappointment, because it happens. And we won't always be there to fix it for them. Let's teach them how they can get things they want through diligence, patience, and hard work.

How do you feel about the concept of sharing where young children are concerned? I know you likely don't have a "policy," as I sure didn't before the preschool told me they had one. Now I notice a variety of different takes on the subject from the parents I see around. Makes me wonder if we need to be talking about this issue a little bit more.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
koreena1384584927 koreena1384584927 2 years

Also, i have seen people who have a system that looks fair to me, so ive began using it. When kids come to my house, if they fight over a toy then who ever had it first gets it for 5 more minutes and i tell them whats happening and they help me set the oven timer, then after the 5 minutes the next child has it for 5 minutes on the timer. If they fight over the same toy again then the toy gets taken away. I havent had any issues since and with the kids parents getting cranky. They all seam to agree so far

koreena1384584927 koreena1384584927 2 years

I agree 100% if a child asks my child for something he often says yes and hands it over! sometimes he says no and thats fine. I bring food for my 2 year old when we go out to parks or to dinner (incase its a long wait). I bring his food. Enough for HIM! Not for every other child who sees the food. My friends often say ( my girl wants some can she have them?) and i feel like, it happens everytime! Be prepared for your own kid. I hand over a couple but it often continues with all the kids until all my sons food is gone and hes left still hungry. But its rude of me to say no apparently??

OmilajuMiranda1386570670 OmilajuMiranda1386570670 2 years

Her primary examples seem extreme and I hope they are the exceptions. If they are the norm, then I am lucky to have encountered mothers who primarily think like me in that in the 1st instance we would have said, "that's his truck and he does not have to share; you can play with something else" and in the 2nd instance, we would have put our child in a different car. If these are accurate descriptions of these mothers, they are nightmare moms. If the author is exaggerating or misremembering, then these examples do her argument a disservice.

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