Why I Don’t Make My Kids Share

Why I Don’t Make My Kids Share

Would you gladly give me your favorite pair of shoes or the necklace you are wearing? Would you maybe pause using your phone and let me have it just because it is shinier than mine and I REALLY NEED IT RIGHT NOW? Or maybe you could stop in the middle of your pedicure and offer me your spot just because I’m quite bored waiting for my turn.

That makes no sense, right?

But we are expecting our kids to share things they love, give up turns or just put somebody else’s needs first, just because that is a rule of “niceness” in the world we live in. We want the older siblings to give up for the little ones. I was an older sibling. It was unfair and it taught me nothing about kindness. It actually made me resent my sister for being privileged by birth order – nothing I could control. Nevertheless, it was expected and even demanded. Let’s talk about these rules for a minute.

We want to teach our kids kindness and compassion, collaboration and teamwork. Our intention is good. It always is.

We want to be perceived as good people by other parents or children – Look at Mary, she’s so good at sharing! Well done dear! And well done you, mama bear, for raising such a giver!

How about the child’s perspective?

Here is what can go through their heads, even though they might not always have the words for it:

– I’m small, so I have no say in regards to my preferences. Even if I like something very much, it might be taken from me. I will fight for it even more, maybe that way I won’t lose it.
– I can’t be guaranteed an uninterrupted block of time using a toy I choose. It can end with or without a notice. I may be given 5 more minutes (which is grownup talk that I don’t understand anyway), but I live with the stress that it will end. I can’t focus on the play I want to do.
– The world is split between the ones who give up and the ones who receive what the others have given up. If I have to let go today, I might accept that I am that kind of person who gives up, or I can observe the behavior that made the other kid receive (cry, kick, tantrum, scream) and copy it so I can get the stuff as well.

Kids are so smart! They intuitively observe adults and other kids and embrace behaviors to their advantage.

Kids are also good. Their true nature is collaborative. When we offer them the freedom to actually CHOOSE when to share and what to share, it is absolutely delightful to see not only how they do it but also how often they embrace kindness. But we shouldn’t be too hard on them if they don’t.

In my house, we play by these rules:

– If it’s in your hand, it’s yours to play with for as long as you want. There is no time frame, no conditioning, no request to turn it into a group play or give it up. The moment it leaves your hands, it becomes public property and anybody else can now play with it. Even my 2-year-olds get this.
– Sometimes, it may be hard to wait for your turn. I am happy to sit with you while you are waiting. Not distracting or trying to convince you to want something else, but simply acknowledging that waiting for our turn is sometimes a lengthy, boring and emotional process. Bring on the tears baby, mama can deal with that!
– If you took something from somebody else’s hands, you need to give it back and apologize. I will be holding your hand while you are doing it. Saying I’m sorry and meaning it takes real courage and that can be hard sometimes.
– All the toys we own are for everybody to use. As my older daughter is growing and becoming more territorial, she has a secret drawer. If she feels there are certain things she really doesn’t want to share, she can put them there at the beginning of the day. As the babies have already discovered the secret drawer and understood its meaning, they have been also given a separate place just for them to use. No questions are asked about what goes into the drawer and why.
– You can’t take toys away from other people, but you can always propose swaps. They might be accepted or not, but they have a greater chance of success than demanding.

I ask my kids “what should we do?”, when you finish playing with it please give it to A, she’s been waiting for it” or “I know it’s hard to wait, I’m right here waiting together with you” and “nothing lasts forever”.

My kids fight a lot, but they also play together a whole lot more. They learn how to give some to get some, how to be patient and how to negotiate. They also learn that crying and screaming won’t get them a toy, but it will get them a hug while it is frustratingly difficult to wait for that toy to become available.

My kids are compassionate and kind and even though it took a lot of self-awareness and control from my side, the best thing I ever did was to step away from trying to over-control and instead allow their good nature to flourish.

How do you approach sharing in your home?

Share the sharing. Go ahead...

Why I Don’t Make My Kids Share 

Would you gladly give me your favorite pair of shoes or the necklace you are wearing? 

Why are expecting our kids to share things they love, give up turns or put somebody else’s needs first? 

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