Parent · Think

How to Teach Your Kids to Share

My kid had a birthday and she had all this new stuff. Shiny new ridiculous toys with lots of small parts. Lots of friends, lots of family. It was awesome. Until everyone wanted to share her brand new stuff and she introverted out and didn’t want to share or talk to anyone.

Her eyes were getting bigger.

I swept her up before she had a very public meltdown and took her into our bedroom where I could talk her down from the it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to ledge.

Here’s the deal about this kiddo. She’s quiet, unless she has something important to say. Even then, she’ll often whisper it with her fore finger and thumb cupped around her little mouth. She’s thoughtful, and cuddly, and funny. She tells great stories. I can already see a little bit of grownup in her. She knows when she needs to take a time out and many times throughout the day, she’ll slip away and recharge. And…she hates sharing-hates it.

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The apple doesn’t fall too far, I mean, really. Not many of us like sharing or even practice it.

We keep our houses to ourselves. And our food. And our money. And our stuff. And our time. Don’t we?

My husband’s dream car is our midsize SUV, which we shared until it became a veritable clown car with our four kids and I upgraded to a real momobile. When we drove my new momobile home, he immediately cleaned out his “5th baby” and made it his own again. Even somehow dousing it with man smell (Man smell=the absence of woman smell). Now we both really know that we are still “sharing” his 5th baby, but it just makes him feel better to say it’s his.

And you know, what if I was watching a show, during my siesta, i.e. fold the laundry time, i.e. nap time…what if someone walked up and was like, “you have 7 more minutes to watch that show, then I get to watch my show for 7 minutes.” That would be weird.  And I might throw a moderate tantrum based on what I was watching.

So…how do we teach our selfish kids to share without forcing them to do weird things they will never do in adulthood?

Firstly, I don’t know. My kids are really little and we are JUST BARELY starting to figure out this parenthood thing. Everything is an experiment. Let’s be honest, shall we?

Secondly, I think it’s ok to let all the kids have things they don’t have to share and things that are communal. In fact, most of our toys are communal toys. Christmas tends to be a big communal toy fest, but birthday toys are shared pending approval by the owner. This is fair, this is life, this is ok.  Grownups don’t share everything. For instance, I’ve never wanted to share earrings. That feels gross. Right?

Thirdly, when friends come over, determine before hand that sharing WILL take place. And if there are special items that aren’t to be shared, stash them away beforehand in a safe place. I have really screwed up in this area. Lately, play dates have been a learning experience for my kids and me, especially my kid who struggles with sharing. The last few times we’ve had friends over she may or may not have decided loudly that certain toys were off limits for her friends. Cripes. Shhhh. Stop being bratty in front of people. Big eyes emoji face. I promise I’m a good mom, etc.

SO, we stop, we time out, we talk about being kind, and hospitable. Next time we have people over, we’ll talk about this beforehand and determine what needs to go in the “off limits secret don’t want to share this” place. And that’s ok. Like I said, I hide my earrings before people come over and I share my coffee and cooking skillz. This is life. (I don’t really hide my earrings because my friends are not weirdo thieves).

Lastly, when a child is playing with something, I don’t force them to give it up in 7 minutes or whatever. I would be really annoyed if Cute Tall Guy set a timer on his phone and then demanded that we take 7 minutes a piece on the computer or in the car. Instead, it’s ok to teach another child patience. “Kid A, Kid B had the toy first. We are fortunate to have a room full of toys you can entertain yourself with. Kid B, when you are finished or ready to play together with your current Toy, let Kid A know.” It’s also a good lesson in learning to be faster to the playroom. Everybody knows the early bird gets the worm.  Just saying.

The Bible talks a lot about sharing. In the Book of Acts 2 specifically:

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 

This is RADICAL. They sold their stuff and gave to people as it was needed. If the church did this then we wouldn’t have to have government programs because those in need would be taken care of by their churches and neighbors. Can you imagine that??? This kind of sharing is not what we are teaching our kids, this kind of sharing is actually GIVING. And giving is WAY more important than sharing a toy. This is what I want to teach my kids.

But my kids will learn radical hospitality and sharing only if Tall Guy and I MODEL it. We have to open our homes and our hands and hearts to those in need.

We can’t “do as I say” our kids. That has never in all of eternity worked.

We have to “do as I do” our kids.

You don’t always get what you want when you want it.

Sometimes the stuff you love the most, could really help someone more than it will make you happy (ahem…money).

Patience is a virtue.

Giving is better than sharing…by a long shot.

Being together. Being in community. Being family. Being a giver. These things=contentment and joy. Stuff is just icing. And too much icing, sometimes makes you sick.

And finally, while most of our stuff is communal, everyone has a few things they never ever have to share, unless they are feeling especially kind (Teddy, Bunny, various loveys, Mom’s earrings, Dad’s car).

*This is Anna, and I endorse this post with the humble knowledge that all of these opinions may change and morph as I get deeper into the great parenting experiment.

**I did steal earrings from my sister, one time. But I really sanitized them before wearing them and then I never gave them back, so I guess that makes me a weirdo thief.

2 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Kids to Share

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