News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

.      I Don’t Want to Share!

  "But Mom, it’s mine. I don’t want to share it." "Honey, you are eight years old. Your brother is only five. You are old enough to share your game with him!" "He really wants to play with it. It’s mine and I won’t let him have it!"

   Sound familiar? The above was a recent conversation I had with my daughter. I was doing my best to convince her that she should share something that belonged to her, and she was not willing to give in. All I kept getting in return was, "It’s not fair!" Then it hit me. She was right! I was unfairly and selfishly forcing her to share because I ‘needed’ her to do so just so I would not have to deal with the ensuing temper tantrum from my five-year old. The realization of my unfair motives for wanting her to share helped me to put the brakes on our battle. I was able to give her permission to not share and in the end, it was not her responsibility but mine to deal with the tantrum.

   The whole episode really got me thinking about this all-important issue we call sharing. Why is it that as parents, we feel so much pressure to make our children share? Lots of reasons started popping into my head. Could it be that it makes us feel and look good as parents to know that somehow we are doing our job of raising our children to behave properly towards others? Or, could it be that we feel compelled to make our children share so we can avoid those embarrassing incidents where we may find our children, in public, fighting over possessions? Or, as the incident above shows, could it be that it is sometimes easier to make them share rather than deal with the emotions or battle? Whatever our motives, deep inside, I think many of us believe that if we make our children share, it will help them to become kind, generous and giving individuals.

   Being able to share is one of the pinnacles of moral development. Thomas Lickona, in his book Raising Good Children, offers insightful information for parents on how children grow through stages of ethical development and how we can help to guide them towards becoming caring, responsible people. He points out that all young children start off being egocentric, thinking of self as more important than others. Hence, you may recognize the stage that young toddlers and preschoolers go through where there is a tremendous need to ‘own’ everything. It is as they grow and develop ethically that they can begin to think about those around them and how they relate to them, and it is during the elementary years that they begin to develop an understanding of the "golden rule", that you should treat others the way you would like to be treated. As children develop even more, they begin to recognize that being kind and caring towards others creates a lot of good feelings inside.

   Ethically speaking then, being able to share is something that makes us feel good, makes others feel good and makes others feel good about us. So why then do we get into so many battles about sharing? Usually problems arise when we either try to push our children to share before they are developmentally ready, as with the toddler, or when we force them to share on our terms not their own, as I was trying to do with my daughter.

   To make them share or to teach them?

      It can be so difficult to figure out how to best handle the issue of sharing. Logically, sharing is one of those values that we would like to think comes from the heart, because a person wants to do it, not necessarily because some outside source is making one share. Often when children are made to share, feelings of resentment, unfairness and anger are swirling in their heads versus the feelings of kindness and generosity that one would expect or hope for.

      So how can we motivate our children to share from their hearts? One of the best ways to do so is by sharing yourself. We are our children’s most powerful model when it comes to teaching them to be kind. So when we share, our children learn to share. We can talk about our sharing and about how sharing makes us and others feel. It can also be helpful to point out when others share and talk about why and when sharing is a good thing. Without forcing our children to share before they are ready, we can still have a powerful influence on them by letting them know that we value and appreciate "giving from the heart."

      However, sometimes we all, young and old, have trouble sharing. Whether it’s a new toy or the new magazine that just arrived in the mail, we sometimes truly need to have that special something all to ourselves for a while. It can be helpful to learn to listen to and acknowledge our children’s feelings of not wanting to share at the moment. We can give them permission to own while at the same time planting the seeds for sharing. "It looks like you don’t feel like sharing now. Maybe you could find something else to share with your brother or in a few minutes maybe you could share what you have." A simple statement, but what a powerful message you send. "I hear you, I respect your feelings and needs, and I trust you to find a solution or a way to make it better."

   Understanding and helping our children to identify their own feelings and needs opens them up to being able to identify and understand the feelings and needs of others. This is moral growth! And over time, this is what leads to sharing from the heart.

By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator

Feb. 2002
Vol. 4/ No.5
The Parenting Center at Abington
is a non-profit, non-sectarian community service organization.

Editor of News and Views: Deanna Bosley,
Certified Parenting Educator

A publication from The Parenting Center at Abington
P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.

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