"Mom! He won't share his firetruck with me and I want to play with it!
Oh, well remember what I told you? You can't force other people to share, but just remember that when you bring a toy."
I know what you are thinking. I am that mom. The one with the spoiled child whose children sit around yelling "mine" any time they have friends over. Actually, it is quite the opposite, once we stopped forcing them to share, they became more generous with their toys!
We all have private property. If you needed/wanted to use my cell phone, you wouldn't walk up to me demanding or expecting to use it. You would ask and if I said no you wouldn't keep insisting. You would respect my private property. Children are often not afforded the same respect in regards to their property. What does not forcing my children to share actually teach them?
First, it teaches them that others have to respect their property. This can include everything from clothing, to toys or even their own bodies. They know that no one (except for those in authority over them) have the right to put their hands on their property without permission. We teach them how to handle individual violations appropriately.
Second, it teaches them that they do not have the right to put their hands on anyone elses property. If we are going to expect others to respect our private property, we must learn to respect others. Sometimes, it leads to being disappointed by someone not wanting to share. This teaches empathy.
Third, because they have discovered for themselves that not being willing to share sometimes leads to the other child not wanting to play with them, they have become more generous because they have figured out that it leads to more friends!
I know that mom I quoted above thought I was teaching my child that he doesn't have to share. And she is right, but what I am teaching him is that sharing brings joy to others and in turn brings joy to us. As a result I have three children who are almost always willing to share, even their special toys.
What are your thoughts on sharing?