We were raised by our parents to understand that sharing is part of basic manners. And so when we became parents we saw sharing as a milestone when our toddlers learned how to do it. But a mom recently took to Facebook to remind all parents that sometimes it was okay for kids not to share.
Investment educator and mom of three Alanya Kolberg shared a post on Facebook that told how her son Carson felt overwhelmed by several kids asking if they could share his toys. "'You can tell them no, Carson,' I said, 'Just say no. You don't have to say anything else,'" she wrote on her post. When the kids complained to her that Carson didn't want to share, her reply to the kids was: "He doesn't have to share with you. He said no. If he wants to share, he will."
As expected, Alanya got some dirty looks from other parents. But she explained her action. Carson brought the toys to share them with her friend's little girl, but he didn't expect that six other kids he didn't know also wanted to play with his toys.
"The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults. While I do know some adults who clearly never learned how to share as children, I know far more who don't know how to say no to people, or how to set boundaries, or how to practice self-care. Myself included."
Alanya ended her post advising parents, "we don't live in a world where it's conducive to give up everything you have to anyone just because they said so, and I'm not going to teach my kid that that's the way it works."
Alanya's take on sharing is not a popular one, so her post obviously got mixed reactions. However, the parents who agreed with Alanya seem to outnumber those who opposed her view. They argued that many kids today are entitled, automatically expecting that they'd get what they want when they ask for it, whether it's from their parents, other adults or even kids.
Experts actually do advise not to force children to share. If they feel obliged to do it, they wouldn't learn the concept and share toys just for the sake of "because mom said so." It impedes a child's ability to think for himself and set boundaries.
"We have to teach children how to decide with whom to share, how to respectfully decline their request, and how to respect themselves and be assertive enough to say, 'No.' Children don’t always have to share simply because they are asked to do so," clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Ashley, author of The ADD & ADHD Answer Book and 1001 Best Tips for ADHD tells Attn.com.
However, "too much boundary setting... can interrupt the development of relationships," Dr. Ashley stresses. "The message should not be, 'you don’t have to share because you have a right to say no.' The message needs to be 'Here's why you can choose not to share in this situation.'"
When a child doesn't want to share a particular toy or to a particular child, instead of reprimanding them and forcing them to share, parents should talk to your child, find out why he didn't want to share, and explain how his actions affect others. That way he learns to process next time whether he should decide to share or otherwise.
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Parents want to raise generous kids, but teaching your tot when to share and where they're not supposed to is a process. How long it takes for a child to learn a balance between being generous and standing up for oneself depends on each child.