Evolving Opinions on sharing…

I don’t really believe in forcing my daughter to share.

I also don’t get invited to a lot of play dates.

But, here’s my thing. I feel like if I force my daughter to share her toys with other kids I’m teaching her a couple of things.

  1. If other people want your things, they get them
  2. Your feelings don’t matter as much as making other people happy
  3. I don’t trust you to make the “right” decision on your own.

To me, I feel like going down this path could lead to some problematic behaviors in her future, so I’m willing to be the weird parent at the playground who doesn’t make my kid share.

It’s not that I don’t want my daughter to share. I just want to let her choose when and what she’s going to share. I mean…if my husband said to me: “Maggie, you get to use your iPhone ALL the time, don’t you really think you should let your new friend have a turn.” I would look at him like he was an alien. Or “Maggie, you get to drive your car every day, don’t you think you could give someone else a turn?” Ummmm…no.

That worked great when I only had one child, and I got to have some really gratifying moments as a parent where my daughter DID choose to share her things (thank God!). But things chance, and now I have two kids. So we have a lot more opportunities to negotiate “who gets to pay with what.”

I still believe in letting my daughters take ownership of their things, but I recognize a little more compassionately that on some level, we need to be able to take turns.

See, there’s enough room for everyone to play!

Still, with sharing I want to acknowledge a couple of things:

  1. Some toys are special, and we don’t like to share those toys.
    Solution: we put them away when friends come to play
    Lesson: It’s fine to have toys that are very special to you, but it isn’t nice to play with them in front of a friend if you aren’t going to give them a turn.
  2. Some toys are community toys
    Solution: Blocks, books and certain other toys are Mommy and Daddy’s toys that we share with everyone. If I want to share them with another child, that is up to me.
    Lesson: Some toys are for sharing

The last lesson (I think) has been the most useful:

I don’t take sides in sharing disputes.

Most of the time, when I come upon my daughters (or my daughter and a friend) playing tug of war and crying over a special toy, I don’t know who should get to play with it. My temptation is to side with the smaller kid or our guest, but I don’t really want to assume that I know what was going on between the two kids. I’m not going to award the toy to one kid and let the other suffer.


Instead, I’ve started removing the disputed toy from sight and putting it somewhere out of reach for a few minutes. 

This has solved a really large number of arguments with my toddler and her friends. For some reason, no one getting to play with the toy seems fair to them and they’re able to quickly get out of their “fighting” mode and move on to more peaceful play.

I hope this helps you if you, like me, want to teach your children to honor their inner voice and respect their own things, but you also don’t want to be a social pariah.

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