Sharing is not always caring
“Give it to your sister! She’s just little!”
“Come on, sharing is caring!”
“Kind children share!”
What is the big deal with sharing?
Why do we actually want our kids to share? Be honest with yourself?
It makes our kids look and seem kind. But did you know that the act of sharing is a huge developmental milestone?
Young children are developmentally ego-centric. They naturally think of themselves more than anything else in the world… not because they choose to. A child who is forced to share doesn’t learn to be kind, but may learn this:
- I don’t choose who I share with and when I share
- Others have control over my toys
- If I don’t want to share I am a bad kid
- I need to be different, but I don’t want to be
- I need to fight harder to keep what I want for myself
Are kids who don’t share, bad people? Are kids who hate sharing less worthy than those who love sharing?
The messages we send our kids every day creates their sense of self-worth or lack thereof. It gives them an idea of who they are in relation to the world and those around them. If we let them choose who they are and why they do things, we’re actually empowering them to become much more independent thinkers!
Top tip: When encouraging any skill in your children always try to work with them not against them! Meet them where they’re at.
Do you like to share?
What are we actually asking children to do? Are they capable of doing it naturally? Often we ask them to give something away that belongs to them or that they had first.
Universal law… finders keepers ha ha ha
No, but seriously I wouldn’t share my cellphone with others, I wouldn’t share my car or other personal belongings either!
I wouldn’t want to share a pen I’ve just started using that I’m still busy with!
I definitely wouldn’t want to give up my spot at a coffee shop table because someone else wants me to.
And the big one… do you share with your kids? Food, pens, books? How often do we model the message that our things belong to us but their things need to be shared with others?
What can we do?
So now, it’s not to say we leave our children to think they own everything and never have to share! But can we find a way to encourage sharing and make them a part of the equation too? In order to encourage sharing we need one ingredient… internal motivation. How can we encourage a child to want to share? Sound impossible? Don’t worry! There are ways.
- Give them control – “When you’re done with that would you like to share with your friend?” What if they say “NO!”? Shock horror. That’s ok. They’re allowed to say no. Maybe you can say, “Would you like to help me find them another toy that’s also fun?”
- Give them choices! – “Which toys would you like to share with your cousins when they come to play?” Giving choices helps them feel less controlled and more in control.
- Encourage with words, without over praising – “I see you decided to share. That was a kind thing to do.” Acknowledge the good! But avoid making your praise the thing they actually aim for. Let it focus on process NOT the child. (I can see you shared rather than you’re a good girl for sharing) Our children’s very worth should not be dependent on a skill like sharing!
- Model sharing – “Sure, you can have some of my cake.” OR “I really want to use this now. I’ll let you have it just now.” Show them how you share, why you share and your healthy boundaries around your own things.
Sharing because a child is being forced to is not teaching them any long term valuable lessons. It may even create resentment towards other children and a need to protect their things or become sneaky about their toys and other things. Using conscious parenting to help kids to understanding why we share and how we can share, can be such an invaluable lesson for them… and for us, too!
Clare Emms is a mom of two and a Parent Coach. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and has a BEd (ECD and Foundation Phase Education) as well as an Honours degree (Psychoeducational Support). She is the founder of Ripple Effect Parenting, where her intention is to empower parents and teachers with tools and knowledge in positive and conscious parenting and encourage them to spread positivity and growth to children and others and so create a ‘ripple effect’.
Her passions include Positive Discipline, Parent Coaching, Child Development, Teaching, Protective Behaviours, Mindfulness, Psychology, NLP as well as working with the Inner Child. She facilitates Parenting Workshops, Teacher Workshops and runs the Break Free Sisterhood Membership