Warning: I’m getting on my soapbox. Proceed with caution …
I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to the behavior of children. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that children need to be taught proper manners early on. Rude, selfish and/or mean children make me cringe (and in some cases, make me angry). As a parent, I believe my job is to raise children who are kind, compassionate, polite, respectful and honest. Healthy and happy, too, of course, and hopefully successful … but not at the expense of someone else. I wrote a post about this very topic a few weeks ago (click here if you missed it). Sadly, not every parent agrees with this mission … or if they do, they go about it in ways that baffle me.
Sharing is a pretty basic principle that I thought would be indisputable among parents. Apparently, I am wrong because I recently read a blog post on PopSugar wherein the author makes the case for teaching young children not to share. Yes, you read that correctly. NOT to share.
The author, Beth of www.verybloggy.com, tells how her son’s preschool has a policy against sharing. Kids cannot just take toys or jump in line for the slide if someone is already using these items. The children must wait their turns to use a communal object. Okay, makes sense. No issues here. What doesn’t make sense is the next part … the staff will “save” toys, even objects like playground swings, until a child returns from the bathroom, snack table, etc. to ensure the first child has completed his/her turn. Meaning, if little Sally is on the monkey bars or playing with the blocks and she wants to get a drink of water, no one else can use the monkey bars or blocks while she’s away, no matter how long she’s gone. [Note: there’s no mention of a time limit on turns.] Seems a bit off to me.
The author goes on to share two stories in which a child, one her own, decides not to share.
In the first situation, the toy in question was the personal property of one of the children in a public park setting. Sure it would be nice to see two kids playing together in the sandbox, sharing their toys, but since the toy was brought from home and the children didn’t know each other, I don’t really take issue with this example. Yes, it could have been handled better by the parents, used as a “teachable moment” or something, but generally speaking this story doesn’t upset me.
The second example, however, is where I take issue with the author and her reasoning. Respectfully, of course.
In the second story, the author tells of her toddler son riding the same red car (“his favorite”) around a community rec center for the entire open play hour, despite the fact that another boy wanted a turn and his mother politely asked the author’s son to share. She implies that she didn’t make her son share the toy (that belonged to the rec center, making it shared property) because there was another, almost identical car for that boy to use. Her defense is that had her son shared the toy, it would have taught the other child that he can get anything he wants simply because he wants it. Isn’t that what she just taught her own son, by not making him take turns? Her exact quote:
“I think it does a child a great disservice to teach him that he can have something that someone else has, simply because he wants it. […] Furthermore, this is not how things work in the real world. In your child’s adult life, he’s going to think he’s owed everything he sees…”
Could this logic be more flawed? How in the world does sharing community property teach entitlement? She has it backwards. Teaching kids that they can use public or communal objects for as long as they’d like, without having to share or take turns, indoctrinates an attitude of privilege and selfishness. Not the other way around. Sharing, taking turns, waiting patiently … this is how the real world works. Thankfully.
I, for one, will continue to teach my boys to live by the “sharing is caring” credo with a few common sense exceptions, like sharing their ice cream cones with strangers. That’s just silly … and gross.