That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don’t offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here’s my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.
To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author’s position that we aren’t doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we’re focusing on something that really isn’t the point.
The point isn’t really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?
Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?
Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else’s happiness and wants over their own?
I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.
One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.
Is there ever a time when they don’t have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn’t seem right or all that fun.
So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?
Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn’t letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren’t. Valuable lessons were learned either way.
Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don’t want them to be hoarders or miserly. But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.
Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course. There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.
But these are lessons that aren’t learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It’s a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.