In Defense of Sharing: Response to "Why I Don't Make My Son Share"
Look out. I'm on a bit of a tear. So much so that I will be using the following words in this post: thusly, poppycock, and old-hat. That's right; I'm going early twentieth century up in this shiz.
I keep seeing this post about why kids shouldn't be encouraged to share on my Facebook news feed. For some reason, I've read it multiple times. Every time I read it I end up doing one of those two handed palm up "why" gestures at my computer. I don't know if you've read it, but allow me summarize it for you (or go read it and come back).
Very Bloggy Beth starts out by telling us that the day care she brings her kid to is a parent co-op - meaning all the parents chip in and take a turn watching each other's children. It has a set of rules that every parent has to follow to remain consistent. Makes sense.
One of these "we're all on the same page" rules is that any kid who has any toy gets to keep said toy as long as he or she want to. If said kid needs to go to the bathroom, from what I can tell, a designated toy watcher will keep the toy isolated until the child returns. And this ownership applies to EVERYTHING. Monkey bars? Stay the hell off of them until Jimmy is done. Swing? It doesn't have Sally's name on it, but her right of inheritance remains intact while she is off making a poo poo. And the "wonderful" thing is, all the co-op kids have bought in to this strategy; so no one pitches a fit when they can't play with each other's Legos. I'm not even sure anyone even asks after the first couple weeks. Sweet, quiet obedience.
OK, so let's try not to focus on the irony that is a co-op... a cooperative... an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic, and cultural benefit THAT DISCOURAGES SHARING! Let's just continue on.
Very Bloggy Beth then shows us some a couple "real world" examples of why the no-share policy is better.
In the first example, a tiny toddler is playing with a car and an older, bigger toddler comes up and DEMANDS the car. Then they get in what she refers to as a "typical toddler scuffle" which I like to imagine looked something like this:
Eventually, angry bigger toddler's mom comes up, separates the two and chides tiny toddler's mom for not teaching her kid how to share.
In situation two, another toddler is playing with a toy in a sea of similar toys when a mom who doesn't belong to him comes up and instructs him to give up the toy he is currently playing with so the toddler she does belong to can play with it. Actual mom of toddler 1 is watching from the sidelines as not-his-mom fruitlessly asks over and over for not-her-kid to give up the toy. Eventually not-the-mom gives up and actual-mom chuckles from the sideline at her child's independence.
Bloggy Beth doesn't agree with either approach, and here is where we agree. I don't either. But then we part ways again. She breaks it down thusly. (I've always wanted to say thusly)
“…it's a good lesson for you both to learn that this (giving your child everything they want) isn't always possible, and you shouldn't step all over people to get 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. "
"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."
See! She's doing us a favor. She is going to teach her kids not to share so they can teach other kids the all-important lessons of personal responsibility, property ownership, and life's unfairness. Additionally, the non-sharing toddlers will prevent our share-enabled kids from growing up into a sharer/taker generation. They will feel less entitled and more independent. They won't assume that they are owed. Atlas won't have to shrug. Rich people won't abandon us to move to a compound in Colorado. These selfish toddlers are going to SAVE THE WORLD. IT'S A MIRACLE! I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M YELLING!
OK… deep breath. That was a bit much. I'm just bugged.
Look...you can't just nit-pick random, annoying adult behaviors and then directly attribute them to the unknown, albeit likely, chance that their moms made them share their Light Brights when they were kids. That's illogical, and to be honest, it's far too easy. Look, I can do it too! Can you believe that asshole going fifty in the passing lane for the last 20 miles? He must have had a mom that taught him not to share! And can you believe that Carl uses all three microwaves in the break room to heat up his three course lunch even though there are ten people waiting to use them? He must have gone to a parenting co-op where he had a designated "toy watcher" whilst he went poo poo. Society these days…
Yes, I know my snark is turned up to an 11, but I really think these one to one comparisons of lessons and behaviors we teach our toddlers to practical, real world, adult situations are complete poppycock. (I've also always wanted to say poppycock.)
A no sharing policy is as ridiculous as a mandatory you-must-share-everything policy. Discouraging Jimmy from even asking to play with Alice's toy train is as dumb as telling Alice that she has to give it to him if he asks. We should be encouraging both! Let them interact. Let them learn to negotiate. Let them squabble a bit. Don't make Jimmy sit on the side of the playground and wait for Alice to walk away from her ball. There will be plenty of time to be awkward and antisocial in high school!
And yes, I get that there isn't a specific "no sharing" policy at this daycare co-op. But it seems clear from the article that the "you get to keep it as long as you want policy" has stymied sharing to the point that it is rarely requested. That's a horrible thing in my book.
How about this? Instead of teaching children to absolutely share or to absolutely not share, why not teach children to avoid being complete assholes. Use a different word obviously, but if your mega-toddler is roughing up some kid because he wants his toy – don't attack the mom. Teach your kid not to be an asshole. And tiny-toddler mom, please-please-please don't deny your kid the joy of sharing; encourage it. Yes, don't yank the toy out of her hands and hand it to ogre-toddler out of some strange obligation to communal ownership – but don't start with "You don't have to share if you don't want to honey," either.
Sharing is a gift we teach our kids to give others, and it is an honorable and worthwhile action. It makes our world a better place. It is important. Don't worry; the world will beat the "mine" mentality into Alice and Jimmy without your encouragement.
And yes, I like Very Bloggy Beth's closing idea that we need to teach our toddlers that they can get things through diligence, patience, and hard work. I think that is a wonderful lesson, and a great way to get things. Maybe it is a bit old-hat of me to say so, but on the off chance we want our kids to have friends, and not just things – perhaps we shouldn't cut sharing from the curriculum just yet.
(Yes, I've always wanted to say old-hat too).
P.S. This is not meant to be an attack on Very Bloggy Beth. I'm sure she is incredibly nice. I found her mommy blog and read some of her other posts. She is a kind, loving mom with adorable kids. I just disagree with the sharing post. Please go check out her blog and leave comments and compliments on the stuff you like. And feel free to tell me why I'm wrong in the comments below.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's parenting blog, Ask Your Dad.