Related links (at SandraDodd.com)
What is the purpose of kids sharing?
What do we hope kids will learn from sharing?
I bet it's not what the typical approach shows them! When a child is made to share from the child's view it's a rule, "When someone wants what you have you should give it to them." In other words act like you care about this other child's needs regardless of your own feelings.
What we'd really like kids to develop is a compassionate understanding of another's needs as well as their own. To then weigh both and make a thoughtful decision.
Forced sharing isn't likely to lead to that. It's likely to lead to believing another's needs are more important than their own. Or to rejecting that message! Besides, that level of thought is beyond most kids who are still in the not wanting to share stage.
What kids need is a Mom who understands their objections. What's in the way? Is it a misunderstanding? My daughter feared the other child wouldn't return the toy. I reassured her they would and with experience she saw I was telling the truth. Is it something that belongs to the child that they don't want others touching? Presumably you don't share your wallet with others! Help them find things before the playdate that can be played with by others. Experience will let them see that if they set everything off limits then there won't be anything to play with! Is it something they waited a long time to play with? Let the other child know sympathetically. Is there something similar you can offer the other child? Is the other child very young and you know their attention won't last more than a few seconds?
See the bigger picture. Offer more choices. Work with your child's understanding.
And if the other mom insists your child should be made to share? Smile apologetically and say, "We're still working on it." Be confident that you're growing an understanding -- which will take time! -- rather than forcing your child to act like she understands when her feelings say, "This feels wrong."
At first Angela's and Sandra's two views below on sharing seem contradictory, but they're getting at two different aspects.
First is to see that we don't help kids make thoughtful decisions when we force the "right" choice. We just make them more powerless in a world where they're already powerless.
And second is to help them be social creatures, help them get past the scary parts of sharing. Offer a different understanding. Let them experience that what you say about sharing is true.
This is something that I struggle with. What then, do you say, when a child has a toy and doesn't want anyone else to play with it? My 7 yr old does that a lot. If one of her brothers is playing with one of her toys, she'll tell them "No, that's mine!". How do I handle that while honoring her feelings at the same time?
I think sharing is over rated when it comes to children. Would you share your car with just anyone? How about your laptop or a gift someone special gave you? Do you get to choose because it's yours or does someone else choose for you?
I have always allowed my children to have their own things and to have full ownership of those things. They almost always share with each other because they trust each other to care for their things the same way they would. I have to say they don't always share their special things well with little kids because little kids have broken their things many times. (can't say I blame them)
We don't bring special things to a public place anymore (learned that lesson) because it's often hard on the kids who want the things too. But we always have things we are willing to share and the kids share these things well. (baseballs and baseball bat, Frisbees, etc)
When children come to play at our house, my kids have the option of putting their special things out of sight. As they have gotten older and have more often chosen the company that is at our house, the things that get put away are fewer and fewer.
My kids are not selfish at all and they (esp. my youngest) really enjoys making people happy by sharing with them. She's the first to spend her own money on candy or small items for her friends.
Allowing your children control over their items doesn't equal selfish children. My kids are proof of that.
[Angela S.] I think sharing is over rated when it comes to children. Would you share your car with just anyone? Allowing your children control over their items doesn't equal selfish children. My kids are proof of that.
I share my car with my husband and kids. We've loaned cars to friends whose only car was in the shop, many times.
There's control and there's forced sharing, and then there's a world in between.
If a baby Marty wanted to play with young-boy Kirby's thing, I would ask Kirby if there was a way Marty could play with it safely. We wouldn't just hand it off to Marty to do with as he wanted out in the yard. We'd both be there, and coach Marty on how to hold it or what was the breakable part. And I would be thinking of something more interesting so that after Marty's attention started to lag or Kirby started to feel nervous about it, I could say "Hey, Marty! Let's go do [whatever]."
So Marty wasn't pulled away from the toy and the toy wasn't pulled away from him, he got to play with it a little, in a safe way, and Kirby didn't have to feel bad feelings (guilt, resentment, etc.)
It was good for everyone.
I meant to add that some kids, feeling safe in their mom's rule that they don't have to share their stuff, cruelly flaunt that in the face of a kid who would DEARLY love to just hold that Barbie doll for just one moment. A rule like "you never have to share" can go against many principles.