That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don't offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here's my thoughts, for whatever they're worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author's position that we aren't doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we're focusing on something that really isn't the point.

The point isn't really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else's happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don't have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn't seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn't letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren't. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don't want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren't learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It's a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.


12 Comments

  1. Marty,
    What do you mean by "no sharing no taking"?

    Our children always shared, but didn't have to share everything all the time. They weren't required to share a gift the day they received it and if it was a destructible sort of item they only shared with those who would be as careful as they were with it. We had a shelf or closet for them to keep their special things that they didn't have to share when rambunctious company came over or with the current destructo baby in the house.
    Also if they had personal/special gifts they were allowed to keep them put away in their room and others had to ask to play with them. They shared pretty well and if they were having trouble sharing the special things; then I helped out by requiring it in a supervised time to allay their fears of it being damaged. There was only a limited amount of "special" toys like this. If any toy was left laying around the house it was fair game for anyone to play with. If they weren't sharing nicely then I had something I would tell them that generally fixed it so they would share better. "If you are having too much trouble sharing then you don't have to share at all and ____ can play with it by himself."
    I will say that most toys were part of sets that belonged to all the children. i.e. Train sets, legos, lincoln logs, play kitchen with food galore. Puzzles and games, clay, play doh and beads and light bright were kept in a locked cabinet and were brought out by me at certain times.

    This system worked well for our family and we were pretty consistent with it. We only had one family over with children that after they left, my children were so distraught over their destructive behavior and the disappearance of the smiling Thomas train, that they begged us not to have the family over again. My children are 19, 18, 17, and 16. They still remember those children with horror and mourn the loss of Thomas, and that was over 10 years ago.

    I do think we taught them to value people but not via the avenue of sharing. At the time I never thought of it. What we did impress on them was to always include others in their play or conversations and to actively look for those who are left out and include them. So in a way it was sharing, but more of themselves and not necessarily their own things at home.

    I never really knew how to handle the children who only wanted to play with mine when no one else was available. We stumbled through it somehow.

    I am enjoying your posts.

    Rachelle

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    1. No sharing no taking meant that if we were going somewhere and they didn't want to share a toy then they shouldn't plan to take it. If they took it they had to be willing to share it. Not having to share everything all the time is how we've worked through it as well...also the supervised play with special items :-)

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  2. Can't forget my current 3yo,but he wasn't there at the time. ;)
    Rachelle

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  3. It's much harder to train one to share than it was to train four. He is in dire need of practice. ;)

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  4. "....Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?....", I think this is the most important phrase in the entire post. It's all about the "heart" issue of the matter. It seems that even with disciplining our children in situtions other than sharing, we simply tell them what they have done wrong, and apply a consequence, without totally trying to address the heart of the matter; i.e. selfishness, putting a higher value on things rather than people.

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    1. It's also the hardest part and takes the most work too. Much easier to just address behavior and just have well mannered children with unclean hearts. I have also discovered that in dealing with their heart issues my own come up front and center.

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  5. Hmm...I'd never really thought about "teaching to share" and all that in this way. Maybe just because my daughter is only 20 months old and she's not really been in any situations where she had to share or got jealous because someone else had something she wanted. Thanks for sharing on the Pintastic Pinteresting Party and for getting me to thinking!

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    1. Parenting has a way of making you think of things that you've probably never considered before! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts :-)

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  6. Hi Marty. Thanks for linking up on the Pintastic Pinteresting Party. This is certainly a difficult subject for many parents and children. Thanks for taking it head on. You are right that we need to teach "the heart of the matter". Thanks again for sharing.

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    1. I enjoyed joining the party...lots of fun stuff! Thanks for stopping and sharing your kind words about my post :-)

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  7. To me, the question is less about sharing and more about *serving others*. In some situations, sharing is serving. In others, it's negligible. When we keep our focus on training character with the purpose of seeing Christ, we can discern what's best in each and every moment.

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    1. Exactly, if we take sharing out of context, loving others, then we make it about sharing for the sake of sharing...if I do it then when I want something they have to do it kind of thing.
      Thanks for stopping and taking time to share!

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