I read about a woman who did not teach her children to share. The very thought of the idea surprised me! EVERY child is supposed to share, and every child centered TV show emphasizes sharing in some form. In short, her intentions were to teach her children that they should not get things just because they want them and that people have a right to what belongs to them.
Those principles in and of themselves are good ones, but, when dealing with children they CANNOT be taught exclusively. After reading the entire article I realized that I do practice similar philosophies. For example, I do not force my children to relinquish their toys to pacify the jealousy of a sibling. I do not allow my children to take from the other child and I do not force my children to share because I do not want to reinforce selfish behavior on the jealous siblings’ part. I make my children wait until the other is finished.
I do encourage sharing by suggesting the child share. It is my goal to teach my children to be self sacrificing and kind but those kinds of behaviors must be modeled and taught, not forced. In matters of obedience and gratitude my children do not have a choice; a good attitude is always expected and that kind of reinforcing benefits them into being little blessings. This is not so with self-sacrifice, I believe that a child forced to give something up with only desire to cling to it tighter. It may even teach them that they can demand rights to another child’s toy. After all, it worked for Johnny.
If my son were to try to take my daughter’s stuffed dog my goal would be to teach him to be grateful for what he already has around him. My words to my daughter would be something like, “You have two animals, do you think you could give on to JJ?” or “It would be kind of you to share with JJ.”
In my experience, a child who waited patiently for something was more grateful and had a better attitude upon receiving the object in question. On the other hand, a child who is forced to hand over a toy is tempted to have a wrong attitude and retaliate by demanding rights in another way while the child who ‘wins’ does not even have the proper attitude to enjoy his prize.
I’m not saying we should not teach our children to share (I believe we should!) . Children should share, children should be kind; but it is not in their nature and we need to be sensitive about how we handle their emotions. We need to consider what they are learning when we encourage certain behaviors. Whatever mindset is being addressed to your four year old is going to come up again when they are sixteen, the only difference is the object in question. Whatever compass or mindset you want your teenager to have must be considered while they are yet in preschool.
Practically speaking, I am curious how other parents handle sharing. It is difficult and comes up a LOT with mine! From what I learned, the most important thing is to handle similar situations the same way every time.