Is Sharing Always the Answer?
You can’t be around a group of kids for any length of time without the issue of sharing coming up.
- Johnny has a truck that Anthony wants…NOW! Anthony grabs the truck from Johnny and Johnny starts crying.
- Suzy wants to play with the doll that Chrissy has. She asks politely if she can play with it and Chrissy says, “No, I had it first.”
- Stanley asks if he can join in the game of Candyland that several kids are playing. Stuart says no, they have enough players now.
Every situation is unique but do you have guidelines that you follow? Do you insist that your child always share any toy that they have? Or do you suggest that if they don’t want to share, then they don’t bring that toy with them? What message are we giving children when we insist that they share? Are we preventing developing selfish habits or creating children who have an entitlement mindset?
Do we expect behaviors of children that we wouldn’t model ourselves? For example: You just bought a new car (or laptop or whatever). Do you share it with your neighbor? Do you let them have a turn at using it? Do you feel they deserve a turn because they asked and you’ve had it long enough?
Sharing Can Build a Relationship
Sharing for both children and adults is born out of a sense of connection. When we care about someone, feel they care about and respect us, then we are usually comfortable sharing. When we don’t know someone well, don’t care about someone and worry that they won’t respect the thing that we are sharing… we want to hold on to it. When there is a relationship, sharing is usually a non-issue. Even young children freely share when the relationship is more important than the toy or activity that is desired.
Adult enforced sharing, “You’ve had it long enough, now it’s his turn” may seem like a fair and quick fix for the sharing struggle that we frequently get caught up in, but in actuality it teaches:
- …that kids need adults to solve problems
- …that sharing is about being fair rather than about a relationship
- …that we are all entitled to have exactly what we want, even if the other person is unwilling to give it up
What if instead, we taught sharing as a relationship builder:
- “Johnny and Anthony, you both want to play with the truck. I wonder if its possible to play with it together?”
- “Chrissy, I know that you aren’t finished playing with the doll yet. I wonder what you could do that would make Suzy happy when you do finish playing with the doll?”
- “Stanley, since that game of Candyland is full, I wonder what you could do instead while they finish playing that game?”
What if the message we taught children wasn’t that they always need to share? What if the message we taught was to look for ways to improve a relationship?
Grab and Go Lesson Plan for Busy Educators on Sharing and Cooperation:
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation
Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.