She Says… Sharing is Caring

On Saturday we attended an event at Owen’s daycare. It was a “Volunteer Fair”, intended to be a fun day with various activities to help kids learn about serving others and raising money and goods for charity. There were stations in each classroom where you could make a little craft, like cat toys and dog treats for the Humane Society, friendship bracelets for children in the hospital, food bags with non-perishable foods for homeless families, etc. Parents volunteered their time at each of the stations and donated the materials needed. Even though Owen is a bit young to understand the idea of charity, we had a really fun time.

Once we had exceeded the maximum attention span of our active toddler, we went to the playground, which was crawling with kids of all ages. Owen was the youngest, but he’s such a mobile little climber that he held his own. He got knocked over by big kids playing tag and got right back up. He ran alongside other kids totally oblivious to the games being played over his head. He was in heaven.

After awhile he parked himself in the sandbox where another older girl was playing. I’m terrible at guessing kids’ ages, but I would bet this girl was 6 or 7. She was filling a truck with sand and Owen wanted to see what she was doing. He toddled over and she immediately said, “No no no!”. I redirected Owen and explained (loudly) that the girl was working on something and he could play over here. Little by little he drifted back over into her space. I played referee for a few minutes, making sure he didn’t grab her toy (since he doesn’t know any better and she seemed like she was already annoyed that he was there). Then I decided to stop micromanaging and let kids be kids.

Owen walked up to touch her shovel and she pushed him away. Hard. So he fell into the sand. He didn’t really care (though he seemed a bit surprised), but I felt my stomach tighten and my pulse quicken. I helped Owen up and said, “Please be gentle. He’s just a little baby. I know you didn’t want him touching that shovel, but pushing is not the right response.” The girl glared at me.

I felt embarrassed for “reprimanding” someone else’s child. I tried to ask myself how would I feel if someone did that to Owen? Well, in this case, I probably would have appreciated it (since what she did wasn’t nice, and I responded calmly and gently). But still, it felt weird. I looked around for her parent or guardian, but no one was around.

One other time in a Music Together class, a little boy several years older than Owen pushed him so hard he fell down and hit his head on the wall. Though he wasn’t hurt, the other mother and I both saw it happen, and it wasn’t an accident. I sort of said, “Oh, it’s ok, no big deal”, but the other mother used it as an opportunity to teach her child that pushing is not ok. Thankfully I didn’t have to be the meanie there.

I can guarantee you he won’t always be on the victim side, and I dread the day that he pushes another kid down with bad intentions.

When Owen is playing with other toddlers in his age group, I tend not to intervene unless someone is going to be hurt. They don’t really push each other meanly (the kid was in their way, end of story), or care deeply about snatched toys (at least not in daycare!). They are all kind of on an even playing field. But perhaps this is the time to be setting the groundwork for sharing and being nice to others and not pushing. It’s a tough call for me between teaching lessons and letting them be kids.

I recently read an article about NOT teaching our kids to share (sorry, I can’t find the link at the moment). The idea was that giving another kid the toy you are playing with because your parent demands it of you is not a fair thing to ask a child to do. While we should be teaching the concept of taking turns and being nice to others, the article talked about how sharing is a concept that is often taught to children by essentially saying “I am going to make you 100% give up what you want to do because of someone else, and that is what sharing looks like”. Many parents don’t teach compromise or empathy, they teach a blanket concept of sharing (give Sally that toy, even though you were playing with it) that seems far from fair or even necessary in most situations. It’s not a wonder it’s a hard lesson for kids to learn. This makes a lot of sense to me and made me think carefully about what lessons we are really teaching when we say “You MUST share”. In that regard, I would rather teach Owen to take turns nicely (even when he doesn’t want to) and to realize how his actions make other people feel.

Still, I don’t want to be the only parent out there who doesn’t teach their kid to share.

What is your response when another kid does something hurtful or mean to your child? What about when your kid does something hurtful or mean to another child? Do you demand “sharing”?

Do you think it’s ok to speak to someone else’s child if their parent is not around and the child does something like push another child? While it felt very awkward on the playground on Saturday, it’s also probably what their teacher would have done if that had happened during school hours.

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12 responses to “She Says… Sharing is Caring

  1. If a child has been mean or out-right hurtful to my children, especially Finn since he is only 18 months, I will say something like, “Please do not hit/push/yell at my him/her. S/he does not like that.” I try not to go into saying that it is not nice/using it as a teachable moment because I feel that I don’t have the right to teach a stranger’s child. If Jules or Finn hurt another child and I was not there, then I would want them to just stop my kid and not really get into “that’s mean”. That is just my comfort level. I try to tow the line between standing up for my children and reprimanding others.

  2. I think this is the article you’re talking about- http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2011/10/children_and_sharing_don_t_force_kids_to_share_.html

    I don’t have any kids, but I do nanny quite a bit, I thought the article was really interesting!

  3. Also, I remember when you tweeted that article about sharing. I loved it and it has really affected my parenting of my children. It made me thinking when the author talked about how an adult would feel if she had to share her cup of coffee with another adult just because that adult wanted it.

  4. http://mamatoelijah.blogspot.com/2011/10/sharing.html <– this is a good discussion about sharing as well.

    I think it's hard to decide what to do, even in a situation where there's not pushing, when you have kids of varied ages. When I've taken my kid to the play place at the mall, there have been some older preschool age kids there. A handful of times, I've seen a situation where my kid is on one of the toys and three or four older preschoolers end up trying to incorporate him into their game. If it gets to be too much, I try and let the other kids know that B is too little to play the same way they do. I've never had another parent say anything about butting in – I think it's important to try, as another poster said, to find the line between standing up for your kid and reprimanding.

    One of the things I've noticed in my playgroup is that the other moms do a good job of letting each other know when one of the kids is getting a little rough or whatever. Instead of stepping in, they let the kid's mom know what they've seen and let her handle it however she needs to.

  5. One of my best friends has a little boy who is a year and a half older than Ethan and who tends to be too rough. One time he punched Ethan really hard, right in the chest. Luckily, my friend jumped right in and reprimanded her son. But if she hadn’t been there, I definitely would have said something to him, even if he wasn’t my friend’s kid. Especially since it can be a calm “reprimand” and it’s a good thing for your child to see how to handle a situation like that, with words and not hands. As far as the sharing, I’m more of the school of thought that if Ethan is truly invested in a toy, I don’t make him share it unequivocally, but I do tell him he needs to take turns. However, if it’s a toy he’s not using at all and he’s just being a touch selfish (we’re going through a big “it’s mine!” phase these days), then no, he has to share and that’s that. I also know that he has a couple of toys that he shouldn’t be forced to share, because they are precious to him. So when we have friends over, I just remove those toys from the playing area, so it won’t even become an issue.

  6. I agree with the article’s sharing philosophy! I believe in taking turns- like you have it for 10 minutes then it is your friend’s turn! As far as reprimanding other kids- it comes super easy to me! I am a first grade teacher and it is very hard not to say anything to a misbehaving child. hehe My husband gets so embarrassed when I correct a child’s behavior! Before I was a parent I witnessed a horribly mean kid shove my 3 yr old nephew down a pretty tall slide and I def had a few words for him and then I went to find his momma! My nephew could have been seriously injured.

  7. this post and the comments are so well-written and informative. thank you!

  8. My daughter is 16 months and I am dreading the day I have to reprimand another kid – I feel that embarrassment about it too. I don’t want to be mean, but it’s my child and I will defend them, especially if the other child is being outright mean. I understand what you mean about toddlers being toddlers – they really are pushing because something is in their way! That made me smile because it’s so true! If my daughter is picking on another kid I fully hope and expect that parent to reprimand my kid in a calm manner. If she got yelled at by a parent that’s when it would go to far for me.

  9. Thanks, everyone! Both of these articles are wonderful. Neither is the exact one I had read previously, but both have some awesome points, and certainly share the same tone and goal.

    For me, the hardest part will be trying to put this “let the kids figure out their own solution” theory into practice without other parents a) criticizing my parenting or getting the wrong idea about my intentions or b) intervening on their own.

  10. I remember that article you are talking about and I agree with the underlying message. I think parents don’t really “know” how to react when you are a new parent (hey we’re learning too, right?!) and so many tend to go along with what they think the other parents want to hear in social situations where children are playing. “Now share your toy with ____” thinking that it’s the “kind” thing to do because it’s common knowledge that all kids need to learn to share, right? But when kids are too young to understand empathy, they don’t understand that concept so it makes no sense to try to make them give up a toy they are playing with and it’s kind of confusing, in my opinion. I would never ask Cameron to give up a toy he is playing with to another baby if he’s happily playing with it first. And likewise, if he wanted a toy someone else was playing with, we’d have to practice our patience stretching skills!

    I also think that people are starting to get too involved in their children’s play and become “helicopter moms” and I applaud you for stepping back and trying to see how it would play out. Clearly you needed to intervene, especially with a noticeable age difference and I see nothing wrong with how you handled it. And it’s a teaching moment to Owen too to see that it’s not behaviour that Mommy’s like, especially if the other Mom wasn’t around to deal with it. I think I would have done what you did. I think it’s fair game to step in and protect your child if he’s being at the receiving end of unkind behaviour. A simple, short explanation like what you gave is perfectly acceptable. I’m sorry, but if my child was mean to another one and it was caught by someone else, I wouldn’t have a problem with them speaking to him and saying so. And sometimes hearing things from a stranger is more effective than from the Mom!

  11. @Angie All The Way

    I couldn’t have said it better myself *nods head* Took the words right out of my mouth.

  12. I have often thought about this notion of sharing. Often Maya will hand us a toy and we accept it graciously and make a big deal out of it saying “thank you!!!!” and clapping our hands — probably a little over the top, but I like seeing my 10-mth old “sharing” and want to reward that behavior with positive reinforcement. Our daycare has a webcam and I see it all the time where she is playing with a toy and another kid snatches it from her and she just sits there, totally unfazed. At this age, they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s an interesting way of thinking though — I am going to give that some thought.

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