Through the happy noise of children running, climbing, playing at a local park, I am with my son in the sand box… I hear a parent’s voice saying “Now Billy, give that truck to Johnny, you need to share it”.
I notice the child’s grip on the truck getting tighter, and I hear the voice again: “Give it to him please, you can play with another toy.”
As I looked into the confused eyes of this child, I found myself unintentionally feeling sorry for him. No words are spoken, but his young, small face cannot hide the confusion and resistance he is obviously experiencing.
His expression says “why do I have to give it to him? This is mine. Not his. It’s my favourite toy. I don’t want anyone playing with it.”
He is forced to give up his prized possession.
At first, you might think, Sharing is being generous. Our children need to learn to share. But I ask you, even for a moment, to be open to another way of thinking. After all, how much progress can we expect in our own lives if we’re not open?
We’ve been influenced by ‘experts’ telling us how to raise our children and how our children should behave. As parents, we’ve lost that inner voice inside telling us when something doesn’t feel right.
Think about this for a moment:
Society’s sign of a “good baby” is one that soothes himself, doesn’t fuss, and sleeps all night in a crib.
Society’s sign of a “good toddler” is one that plays without her parents, shares toys, cooperates, listens to authority and doesn’t act out.
Why should these things be the mark of all “good” children?
Sharing is a symbol of kindness and generosity. But how early should we expect our children to share? How early are they able to learn empathy?
We want to prepare our children for life ‘out there’ in the real world. Don’t we?
Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. But forcing our child to share is moving BACKWARDS, not forward.
1) Some toys are just too special to share
Perhaps a parent or a best friend gave it to them. Or perhaps it’s a toy that’s been with the child since the beginning. Chances are, they won’t want to let it go or watch someone else play with it. It’s not fair to force them, or even ask them to do this. Even if it’s for the comfort of the other child.
2) Children have a difficult time grasping this concept
When we model the behaviour we want to see in our child, it will eventually come naturally to them. When we are kind, generous and loving, our child will be as well.
This is fantastic as the child gets older. Very young children, however, cannot grasp the idea of letting another child play with their toys. Even if their parents model sharing. Children under 3 specifically aren’t able to process or understand empathy.
3) Respect, autonomy and the basic rights of a child
Sharing is fantastic and generous. But only if a person chooses to do it. Since when did forcing a child to share become an accepted part of childÂ-rearing? To a child, forcing is forcing. Where’s the line drawn? Can adults also force children to do other things?
When we train children to listen to what adults tell them, they’ll grow up thinking all adults should have power over them, in all sorts of undesirable situations.
We believe in a child’s basic rights. We believe in preserving a person’s autonomy. We believe people (yes, even children) should be able to make these important decisions on their own. We don’t believe our children are here merely to impress or obey us.
If we respect children, they’ll respect us and people around them. Period.
4) Ownership (of things and people)
We want our children to have responsibly for their things. We, as parents and adults, aren’t expected to share our valuables (like our computers, sneakers, watches, collection of vinyl records, whatever).
So why should we expect our child to do something that isn’t expected of older people?
They will decide, and we can help.
In a world where the State owns people, and more powerful people own people, children’s rights seem to be washed down the drain. Children seem to fall just slightly above animals in terms of what’s expected and how we “teach” them.
We don’t own our children. We don’t own people, we own things. No one is entitled to my things. Just like I am not entitled to theirs. If I want to GIVE someone something, that’s my prerogative.
5) The world out there…
In the ‘real world’: if an adult is using something, is it given to another person simply because they want it?
No. When an adult is using something, another person waits until they are finished. As adults, we don’t own everything we see. Most adults wouldn’t take something from someone else, simply because they want it.
So, why then, are we asking our children to do this?
It does a child a great disservice to teach him or her that simply because they want something, they can have it.
Which leads me to my final point….
6) Teaching Patience
Everything in life cannot be ours at the drop of a hat…Can it?
I’ve already established that children shouldn’t have to give something up, just because someone else wants it. By the same token, it’s an important lesson that we don’t step all over others to get what we want. We are not entitled to everything we want, at the moment we want it.
When our children want something someone is playing with, we ask our child if they’d like to find something else to play with until their friend is finished. If necessary, I even sit down and play another game with my child.
When children are playing, we don’t often interfere, even when conflict arrises. But if we see it escalate, and the toy isn’t given back, I simply ask them how it would feel if someone took something from him before finishing with it. It works.
In a world of microwaves, computers and fast food, we’ve lost one important and valuable skill: patience.
It’s important to model this for a child. Notice I don’t say “teach”, I say model.
Through our actions, we can show our children how to be patient, caring, generous and loving individuals. The best way to ‘lead’ a child is by doing something ourselves everyday first. And by this, our children will also feel like they have power over their own decisions.
So, what do we do when friends come over for a playdate?
Before a friend comes over, we go around the playroom together and put away the special toys. My child and I choose toys and games that can be played with as a team with their friends, as well as toys that can be played individually.
The toys she doesn’t want others to play with or share are put away. Remembering that this is a phase, and it will pass, we’ve learned to go with the flow. We can all have fun and get along by playing with ‘sharing’ toys.
All this being said, we *do* encourage our children to be generous with each other and with their friends. We tell them how fun it can be to play with toys together.
If our children *want* to share, of course we’re thrilled! But if not, we’re fine too.
Disappointment will happen.
We can lead our children and help them cope with it. This will help them achieve more through patience, diligence and ambition.
They can make their own choices and decide what and with whom to share. This is the way to raise generous adults. I look forward to personally reading your thoughts below. If this resonates with you and you want to share it with other loving parents in your life, please do. They will thank you.
Margaux is the CEO/ creator of one of the most popular organic, natural, cruelty-free deodorant companies, “The Best Deodorant In The World“, a product she started out of her kitchen that can now be found in stores and online world-wide. Her passion is helping families understand the importance of eliminating toxins, living sustainably and using amazing, natural products that don’t harm our bodies, animals or planet.
This piece was originally published on Huffington PostÂ here.Â