Not Sharing

I want to share something that might be a bit controversial.  Here it is:  For now, I’m not going to make my son share.  Not even after he snatches a toy from another child.  And even though (currently, at least) he is by far more often the one snatched from, I don’t expect another child’s parent to make their kid share with mine.  Am I just being crazy?

The thought process that led up to this decision started with the simple fact that in my experience, kids around the same age as mine do not seem to share well.  Nix that- they just do not share.  No matter how or what the parents try to do to intervene, two seconds later someone is wresting a toy from another child’s hand again.

Now that Sean is getting a bit older (he’ll be two next month), I have noticed an increasing pull toward ‘making him share.’  Seems almost everyone else is doing  it.  Shouldn’t I?  What to do when your kid is taking something from another and maybe even making the other child cry?

So I asked myself some questions:

Is it even developmentally appropriate to expect children in the 18 month to 3 year old range to share?  And if so, how do we make encourage them do it?  Does the way us parents try to make them share really help them learn to do it next time?

I did some research [read: looked it up on Google] and found me some answers.  One of the first articles I found was on not sharing:  The inspiration for this post.  But more on that at the end.

One of the very next articles I noted was “How to Get Kids to Share.” I totally related to the intro question and it began to answer some of my questions.  For example…

“…18-month-olds don’t yet have the impulse control to stop themselves from doing something they want to do, even if they have been corrected countless times.”

However, the article goes on to take a parent controlled approach to manage ‘sharing’ during playtime.  While I think some of the suggestions are helpful, I can’t help but think that some of the ‘teaching kids to share’ is more like ‘get him used to what I’m going to make him do until he is actually old enough to understand and initiate real sharing.’  This article says kids can’t truly share until 2.5-3 years old.  Maybe right now I just don’t have the energy to spend ‘teaching’ him something he really can’t grasp, won’t do and that he’ll learn much more readily when he’s old enough.

For a differing opinion, a more technical article on what age kids really learn to share, and why, read this article.  –Spoiler alert– It starts off like this:

Three- and 4-year-olds are selfish and not likely to share — hardly news to any parent who has presided over a toddler play date. The good news is children do develop altruism and the desire for things to be fair by the time they are 7 or 8, according to a Swiss study.

I do think kids can start learning to share much younger than this.  I am not suggesting that kids are incapable of sharing before age 7.  I just wonder if inundating them with forceful interventions and commands to “Share!” are the best way to teach them.  I wonder if there is more value in giving kids time to try and figure things out amongst themselves, even if there might be tears and upset.  Wasn’t that happening anyway?

I know Sean can and does share already- sometimes.  I’m writing about this idea of letting kids not share primarily because it is such a shift from what I am naturally inclined to do myself.

So what to do instead of trying to make our toddlers share?  I like the RIE approach presented in the first article I linked: “These Toddlers Are NOT Sharing.”  She writes, “…infants and toddlers define fun, play and learning quite differently than their elders. They approach social situations, even those that turn into minor conflicts, with curiosity and openness.”  If we are too quick to intervene, we can miss out on what our kids are really capable of doing.  “I think you’ll see that toddlers are not only capable problem solvers, they are ingenious, tenacious, accepting and forgiving.”

Here are some notes about interventions she used in the video that I’d love to incorporate.

“1. Beginning around this age, I gently try to encourage the children to use language (like “no”) with each other, so they will be less inclined to hit or push (or allow themselves to be hit or pushed).

2. At RIE, we don’t believe in using a blaming tone when there is conflict, so that children don’t identify themselves as victims or aggressors. Instead, we ‘sportscast’ the situation non-judgmentally and matter-of-factly. Infants and toddlers are just learning and experimenting, and we want to give them the confidence to continue to do so. “

‘Nuff said.  I’m bracing myself for some serious feedback- I shared, now it’s your turn!


9 thoughts on “Not Sharing

  1. Interesting article, Beth.

    My parents didn’t really have to worry about teaching me to “share” until I was a bit older anyway. For the first few years of my life, I was either in a full-body cast or wheelchair bound, so I wasn’t exactly going on play dates.

    When I did get taught to share, the rules were simple: If you have extra and the other person wants some, share; if you only have enough for yourself, tell them no as nicely as you can and keep it for yourself. I still TRY live by that principle, more or less. But I’m more likely to share. And there’s a reason for that.

    Here’s a sharing story from the Life of Lauren…

    When I was fairly young, I really, REALLY wanted some Bubbletape. It right at the pique of its hayday–so, in the early 90s. My parents told me that if I wanted some, I would have to earn the money and get it for myself because it was an extra and my parents only bought me necessities (though they also made me buy my own pads when I hit puberty, which, personally, I find VERY necessary, but I digress…).

    So I did chores for them and for neighbors for outrageously low rates–child labor, I tells ya!–and I finally earned enough to get the Bubbletape. It was the first thing I ever bought for myself.

    The thing is, the neighbor girl wanted some of my Bubbletape. And here’s where things started to go horribly wrong.

    I gave her some, of course. I had 6 feet of gum! Of course I was going to share! That was more than enough for me AND someone else. But then she wanted more. And more. And more. And pretty soon I realized that I was down to the “there’s only enough for me!” stage.

    And that’s when I started running.

    And she–being crazed on sugar and greediness–ran after me. It was quite a chase. And then…I jumped.

    She didn’t.

    She hit the ground and broke her arm. Her bone jutting out of her skin. Blood everywhere. It was like that scene in Dante’s Peak, but REAL. And my eyes were pretty much like this O_O for the rest of the day.

    When she got back from the hospital, I gave her my Bubbletape. I didn’t even get to try it. I figured it she wanted it so badly that she was willing to break her bones to get it that she could HAVE it!

    Now, whenever someone wants something, I usually just give it to them. Even if there’s not enough for both of us. I have given away so, so, SO many of my possessions.

    Ramiro (my significant other) also pegged this incident as the reason why I can never buy anything nice for myself without horrendous guilt. (It’s why I still wear clothes from 5th grade when I could just as easily go out and buy myself something adult to wear).

    Don’t let your son have a “Bubbletape” moment. O_o

    I think it’s fine that you’re waiting to teach him to share. I think you’re right: He’ll learn it eventually if he’s a decent person (and I’m going to bet that he will be since he’s related to you). BUT!–If something horrible happens to him in a sharing-related incident… let him know it’s not his fault. It will save him from being a total oddball (like moi!) later in life.

    • Hi Lauren!! Thanks for your epic comment! What an intense story. I feel for you. Wow.
      Love this concept:

      “When I did get taught to share, the rules were simple: If you have extra and the other person wants some, share; if you only have enough for yourself, tell them no as nicely as you can and keep it for yourself.”

      I think being allowed to say ‘no’ is huge. In so many ways, we as parents sort of force our kids to do what we want them to – even if they don’t want to do it, and some never learn how to say no in a healthy way- or even what they want for themselves.

      I hope you know it’s not your fault some kid fell while trying to steal your delicious Bubbletape*!! *(I, too, remember that stuff being awesome!) Poor little Lauren- poor big Lauren! Go buy some awesome new clothes with impunity, I say! <-Imagine that last part in James voice. =)

      • Feel free to use my rules of sharing when your son gets older! 😉

        I’ve been getting a little better about buying myself the occasional frivolous item. Hehe.

        Looking forward to your next post!

  2. I’m not sure if you would appreciate feedback from a non-parent youngster, but I’ll give it a go. I think making them share is not a good thing even if they learn that sharing is good. I would interfere when I saw my child snatching a toy out of another’s hands, but not more than that. I myself was a victim of “sharing” most of the times. I was one of those easy children, those who listen to grown-ups and from a very early age too, so when I learned that “not sharing is pigsty” (pigsty in my language is used instead of greed in “childish language”), I found myself unwilling to be a pig (sort of ironic considering my chosen nickname), but I was the minority. So I shared and shared, and often cried later because some of my favorite stuff was taken away from me and and unreturned until the parents of the “pig” kids heard me wailing. The bad thing was, I was still encouraged to be a “good” kid. So what’s the point of this? No forcing will do any good and somebody may become too altruistic to their own good. Just my two cents ^..^

    • I totally appreciate the feedback! I agree that sometimes an intervention is necessary- I guess I’m just trying to get at what kind of intervention- when and how we do it. I’m so sorry you seem to have gotten caught toward the opposite end of the spectrum- maybe where the parents weren’t really paying attention? I can imagine how frustrating it would be to actually ‘share’ over and over but have it turn into just having your toys all taken away by other children. =( I know how discouraging it can be to feel like ‘if I’m being ‘good’, i.e. doing what my parents want, why are things going so poorly for me?’! (-Said as the oldest of 4 kids more than from a parenting perspective.) Good news is now that we’re big, we can choose how we want to be.

      • As someone wise said: “The only golden rule is that there are no golden rules”, especially when it comes to children. So it’s a good thing that you’re thinking over all those rules and methods of raising and teaching children. I myself am a fine example of “traditional” methods gone wrong. Yet some people around me (specifically the ones that used them) still insist those methods are good and should always be used.

  3. We have learned “taking turns” rather than the word share. It is much easier to understand for the toddler/preschool age. (and if baby #2 ever enters the picture you will want to understand that concept unless you want to own two of everything). If mine start to argue over an item we use “It’s ____’s turn to use that toy. She can use it for ____ more mintues and then it is your turn.” For us, it seems to do the trick nearly every time.

    • I think ‘taking turns’ is a big improvement- now, why didn’t I think of that? =) Sounds like a helpful strategy! Clear language is something I strive for (and fail to use) constantly with the kiddo. I catch myself saying so many things that (with hindsight, usually) I realize he might not be able to understand what I mean by it. Thanks for the comment!

  4. The other day at the park, I saw many instances of kids trying to play with the other’s toys and having some general struggles while the parents either did (or didn’t) intervene telling their kid to share. I often don’t know what to do in those situations. But today I stumbled upon this article by Janet Lansbury on toddler sharing. It was helpful and informative and this part particularly stood out to me:
    “It’s common in RIE Parent/Infant Classes for children to want the same toy. The giving and taking of toys often begins as a social gesture, an infant’s early attempt to make contact with another infant. The children may appear to be struggling with a toy, but with a bit of patience and objective observation, we usually see that there is little stress and lots of curiosity. If a child reacts to the exchange with surprise or disappointment, infant expert Magda Gerber advises caregivers to ‘sportscast,’ rather than interfere. ‘Sportscast’ means to acknowledge the interactions of the children in a matter-of-fact way, never implying blame. Children often calm down when they feel that an adult understands. We might say, for example: “Rex, you were holding the car, and now Sophie has it.” Or, “You and Sophie both want that toy.”

    There are no villains or victims in Toddlerland, just children learning by experimenting with social behaviors.

    When infants and toddlers have opportunities for uninterrupted socialization, they will try out different options. Should they let go and allow the other child to take the ball away? What happens if they hold on tightly? If they do ‘share’ or offer something to another child, how does that child react? As infant expert Magda Gerber reminded us in her book Your Self-Confident Baby, “Self-learned lessons, whether sharing or the will to hold on, stick with us longer.”

    Children will often demonstrate that the interaction with another child is what interests them, not the toy itself. This is evident when there are multiples of a certain object available, yet the children are only interested in the one that has ‘heat.’ Soon after the struggle is over, the toy is usually dropped, becomes ‘cold,’ and no one wants it anymore. Children are best left to work these situations out by themselves while the adults insure that there is no hitting or hurting.”

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