Friday, February 25, 2011

The great sharing debate

I want to get your opinions on the great sharing debate. Do you make your children share everything all the time? Or do you let them choose, sometimes, to keep something for themselves and not share it? Where do you draw that line? When is it appropriate to say "you don't have to share that," if ever?

Here's how it is for us, but I have to admit, the line is pretty gray and fuzzy sometimes. Most of the time we want our children to share. I think it's important to teach them to love others, live harmoniously with everyone, etc., and I think sharing falls under that category. But what about birthdays? When a child has a birthday, they usually get some new things. Do you make them immediately share their new Barbie (or whatever) with their sister? We don't. We usually give our kids a day or two to enjoy their new toys before we start making them share. As they get older, though, they are accumulating more things from various sources. Big sister might give little sister an old purse she's not using anymore. Is she required to share it with littler sister? What if it's something she brought home from school? A pencil or sheet of stickers she got from her teacher?

If I think of it in a broad, theoretical way, it seems kind of obvious. Sharing is better than hoarding. Right? So do we force our kids to share everything all the time? Sometimes I want to give my kids the choice to share or not, because I want to teach them to make their own decisions, and also to learn realistic consequences - if you don't share with your sister today, she might not share something with you tomorrow. And vice-versa. But if that goes on too long and too often, I end up with a lot of fighting in my house. "She's not sharing!" "She won't let me play with that!" "I want that!" "It's mine!" and I certainly don't like having that in my house.  From a Biblical standpoint, I think Jesus would say we should always share everything. But Jesus also lets us make our own decisions and face the natural consequences. How do we teach this to our children?

I think this is a common dilemma for parents, and I'm curious if anyone has any theories, practices, rules, etc. to share on this topic.

1 comment:

  1. We tried valiantly to teach our kids to share everything, almost all the time. If they received something from school that was just theirs (like you said, sheet of stickers) then that was a reward they got all to themselves, and same with birthday presents right away. We would ask them to share later, after the newness factor had died down. However, there are still times when they would not want to share. Our solution was, if they refused to share, that was all right if it was their toy and theirs alone -- however, the sibling then did not have to share with them, either. If the non-sharing sibling then wanted to play with something that belonged to the other, we would pipe up and say, "Oh, no. You can't play with that. You did not share your _____ so she will not share her ______ with you." They learned the consequences of being selfish, and were much more likely to choose to share on their own as they got older. Now that they are teenagers, we have one computer in the living room. Most of the time if one is using it, the other will be respectful and say, "Can I please use the computer at 11:00" instead of demanding that they use it immediately. (This is not always the case, sometimes they are selfish little snots, but that's just how siblings are :)