Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sharing Is Caring and Much More

This weekend a good friend forwarded me the link to an article about teaching your toddler to share...or not. The thesis of the article was something like: There's an overemphasis on teaching kids to share because, in the real world, sharing ain't all that relevant. If you don't want to click over to the article and read it in full (here), I'll give you the highlights. The author's child goes to a school where the policy is that a child uses a toy until she is finished and does not have to prematurely give up said toy just for the sake of sharing. The author likes this policy and believes it accurately reflects life. An example that she gives: you can't just walk up to a stranger and take their sunglasses or phone because it's your turn.

Well, I firmly disagree with the thesis (though I agree that you can't nab a strangers sunglasses, no matter how much you want them and feel truly deserving of them). The premise that sharing isn't a practical skill is hogwash. I share all day, every day, every minute, constantly. We all do. We share offices and time with the barrista at Starbucks and space in the elevator and books at the library. People job share and carpool. When it comes to friends and family, I share dresses and punch bowls and bicycles and wallpaper steamers. Sharing is fantastic (and environmentally friendly).

But the real point, which is why I think the article kinda sucks (there I said it), is that sharing teaches patience. Sharing is a vehicle for the lesson rather than the lesson itself. By asking your child to use a toy and then share it, you're asking her to be patient, fight the instinct of "ME, NOW" and wait her turn. While you may not agree with my characterization of waiting to order your Starbucks latte as "sharing", you can certainly agree with my assertion that patience is possibly the most important lesson of all. It's not just a virtue, it's life. And whether your little one is patient, or not, she will be required to wait on a daily basis from now until infinite. 

So, back to the toy policy at the author's school (which I kind of like by the way), whether the author believes it or not, this policy requires sharing. At some point, all toys are put down, if only because school is over. And you can damn well bet that if Timmy made Tommy wait all afternoon to use the ball on Monday that Tommy is beating Timmy to the ball on Tuesday and making him wait all afternoon. So whether it's in five minute intervals or alternating afternoons, sharing is happening at her child's school and it's a good thing because it teaches patience.

1 comment:

WW said...

I will first off (again) state that I have no children.

When discussing this article with my husband, we both agreed that generosity is one of the most important lessons to teach your child. To become a thoughtful adult, you must learn to be generous with your time, your love, and yes, your possessions.

HOWEVER, not all parents teach their children this critical value, and there is a fine line between sharing and being a pushover (especially as a small child). If your child is playing with ball and little Stevie (whose mother is too busy texting to teach her son about sharing and sharing etiquette) takes the ball from your child....the ball you bought....is it not ok to teach your child that taking things from others is wrong and you don't have to take it? How will that lesson be applied when they are teenagers?

Of course every situation will be different, and lessons need to be developmentally appropriate (how confusing this must be for them?!?). I think the emphasis of the article should have been more on teaching sharing etiquette (Ps and Qs) than banning generosity all together.