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You are here: Home > Toddlers > Parenting

You Don't Always Have To Share

by Sonya Versluys |
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I took my daughter to this great little toddler park recently that is just wonderful for smaller children. It has all these little paths, made especially for bike riding, weaving in and out of the dozens of trees. We took along her little bike with the intent that she could explore her world on wheels.

Mid way around the park, a little boy about the same age comes bounding along and requests ever so politely to use my daughter's bike. I'm suddenly stumped in an ethical debate. Do I try to teach my daughter the beauty of sharing or do I respect that she is having a great time and some things don't have to be shared?

We declined the little Boy's request and went about our road trip but I continued to think about it for the rest of the day. How will I ever teach my daughter the difference of what she needs to share and what she doesn't?

I tend to think that ownership counts. I have seen many children forced to share some treasured items in local places merely because another child imposes themselves on their stuff. Maybe what we should be teaching our children is to respect other people's property and ask politely to use it and then accept graciously when they are declined.

I know that this is not easy and my child will be the first to run in and pick someone else's bucket out of the pile (it's much cooler than hers after all) but I do think that the lesson they learn about respecting each other is possibly far greater and more important than being told that you must share.

Sharing is something that a child really grapples with until they are well and truly through their toddler years. It is simply a human expectation that is far beyond their current intellect. I don't believe that they truly appreciate the lesson you are trying to teach them when forcing them to hand over their stuff saying, "You have to share" or the real killer, "If you don't share then we will have to go home." If a child has a true understanding for the moral fiber of the lesson you are trying to instill, then they are more likely to co-operate and even be proud of themselves for what they have accomplished. After all, isn't the most important thing here, trying to get your children to feel good about themselves?

You are not completely lost though. There are a few tricks you can have up your sleeve that will help you help your child to hand over something without the usual drama of forceful sharing. Try giving your child a choice, "We're going to share, which bucket can you give Tommy, the red one or the green one?" Letting them make a decision about something allows them to feel good about themselves and subtlety introduces the concept of sharing, and doesn't involve tears. Before leaving for the park maybe you could have your child pick out two items, one that they will play with and one that they can share.

Overall, try to be aware that sharing is not something that comes naturally and not something that your child will learn by force. They will have a far greater respect for what you are trying to help them understand if you take your cues from them.

Sonya Versluys is a Mom of one daughter and an avid photographer, storywriter and painter with a background in Early Childhood Education and Psychology.
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