Why I won’t teach my kids to blindly share…

Sharing is caring. Friends should share. Well, I kind of disagree. I see the importance of learning to take turns and learning to share but I don’t agree with the big lump of sharing.

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The scenarios can go many ways but it usually boils down to the simple, someone has something that someone else doesn’t and that someone else then wants it and gets it through the covertly labeled act of sharing and taking turns.

It goes a bit like this…

Some kid comes along and another kid is quietly playing with something. This new kid has a choice of any number of toys and yet decides to ask to play with what the first kid is playing with. Now, according to the laws of sharing, the first kid is supposed to stop what they’re doing and offer the toy to the other kid or offer to take turns. This is where it comes apart for me.

Why does this kid need what the other kid has? Why does the first kid have to give up their play time fun for a kid that doesn’t want to be creative and find something else to play with? I get that this kid could just really want to play with the other kid with the toy and really interact. However, that’s not what I’ve observed.

We, as all-knowing adults, indulge this behavior. We teach it. We encourage other kids to want to take from others so they can have a ‘turn.’ Why aren’t we encouraging our children to find their own fun activity or learn how to negotiate a deal instead?

I like this scenario much better… A kid is playing quietly with a toy. Another kid walks up and wants to play. The first kid offers any number of other similar toys and the new kid gratefully grabs one and they begin to play pretend together. This is generally frowned upon.

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Today, while watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood I saw another scenario that frustrated me. Daniel Tiger is very excited to take his tigertastic car to play with his friends at the park. When he arrives there are two friends already playing with their toy vehicles. He joins them and we see them playing together. Then, Prince Wednesday shows up. After Daniel enthusiastically shows him his tigertastic car, and how imaginary fast it can go, Prince Wednesday tells Daniel that he forgot to bring his own car. Then, he tells Daniel that he wants to play with Daniel’s car. Hold up. This is an issue for me. Where is the learning experience here? How is Prince Wednesday going to learn the consequences of forgetting to bring his car? Well, we find out in what happened next. Daniel gets flustered because he doesn’t want to share his car. He calls his dad over to help resolve the issue. Daniel’s dad explains sharing and taking turns and that if Daniel doesn’t share it will make his friend sad. Uh…what?! No. Prince Wednesday forgot his car and that’s a bummer. That’s why he’d be sad. The consequences of forgetting his car are basically forfeited by him using his sad eyes to get to play with Daniel’s car. No. I don’t agree.

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Maybe the three friends would like to share with Prince Wednesday but maybe they are 5 year olds and live in the moment and just want to play with their own car. Who’s to say that’s wrong?
What if I show up to work without the tools of my trade? Should I be entitled to share and take turns with the other workers? What if I spend all my money on booze and gambling? Should you be responsible for helping me by sharing your paycheck? If I want what you have will you give up using it to let me have a turn? Can I borrow your car? I love your wedding ring, may I wear it for a day? I broke my phone, may I share yours today? We can take turns.Of course, this is all ridiculous.

Sharing is caring. It really is a great way to show others that we see them. We see their humanity and we want them to join us in ours. Sharing is a choice not a right. I found myself explaining to my 4 year old today that there is always going to be someone that has something that you want. There is always going to be something bigger and better than what you have. That’s okay. It’s okay to have feelings about that. Its not okay, however, to let your feelings affect someone else’s happiness. Sharing is an intimate exchange of trust and kindness. I want my children to want to be trusting and kind not be forced to do so.

I encourage you to examine the sharing culture. I have an itch that makes me wonder if it is helping lead us to a sense of entitlement and not being able to accept consequences and rejection. I wonder if it makes us be less giving as adults, due to a seed being planted that whispers in our ear that someone will just come along and want what we have and we’ll be required to give it to them. Does forced sharing prepare us for the adult world or is it just cultural indoctrination of convenience?