There are a number of self-serving reasons why parents force their children to share their toys, games, whatever, with their siblings or kids outside the family.
Is it more about the parent than the child when a parent angrily makes a child share a toy with another child?
The world is confusing enough for kids without parents forcing them to share, and then next minute, these same parents refuse to share their own belongings with their children!
An example would be punishing little Kaylee for trying on Mommy’s necklace—and we’re talking a cheap costume necklace, not a string of real pearls.
Forcing Kids to Share
I grew up with several siblings. Though my parents didn’t harp on sharing, when it was mandated, it resulted in resentment towards the sibling. Having to split that last Twinkie in two was just ridiculous.
It’s more about the parent than the child.
Forcing kids to share, either with siblings or children outside the family, becomes much more about the parent’s rules and anger (“I’ll spank you if you don’t share,” or, “He’s your brother and you better learn to share with him!”), than about cultivating a deep sense of satisfaction from the act of being communal.
When kids are forced to share, never assume they have no idea that the parents don’t practice what they preach.
How many parents, who make their children share, are generous in the workplace when a co-worker is in need?
I don’t mean lending someone $100, but be honest: How many of you have kept silent upon hearing a co-worker asking if anyone had gum or aspirin, when you had these items in your purse or work drawer?
How many of you pass the same homeless people every day without ever buying them a sandwich or bringing them fruit from home?
Too busy? How often have you told your young ones, “I’m busy now,” when they wanted your time?
You didn’t share your time with your children because you were more interested in that crossword puzzle, the latest celebrity news or reading the endless inane comments on the Facebook page of a junior high school classmate you barely knew.
No research confirms that forced sharing creates empathy and compassion.
If you’ve been forcing this on your kids, ask yourself what you’re aiming to accomplish.
Do you really believe this will create compassion?
My older sister makes her teen daughters share, yet those girls frequently insult each other.
As a teenager, I had to share a bicycle with her, even though my father had the money to buy a second bike.
My sister would deliberately hog the bike all day during the summer by riding it to her full-time job (even though our stay-at-home mother would have happily driven her there and picked her up), while I was left at home all day with no bike to ride about the neighborhood.
Does forced sharing produce generous adults?
We’ve all seen it: An adult trots ahead of someone in the store to beat that person to a checkout line, or zips across the gym to beat someone to a machine that they can see the other person is heading towards.
It’s fair to wonder if this “me first!” approach was generated by being forced to share, or…by never being made to share. It would be interesting to ask 1,000 “me first” adults which way they had it growing up.
The sharing issue is often more about the parents than the children! Right now, I bet you can think of at least several parents who make their kids share—for the sole purpose of impressing other adults, or at least to avoid “looking bad” to those other adults. I’ve actually witnessed this. I bet you have too.
Encouraging Sharing Isn’t the Same As Forcing It
“Persuading your child to share is usually a good thing,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California who counsels individuals and couples, and is author of over a dozen books including “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.”
She continues, “Forcing the issue is not. Children need to be socialized, to learn how to interact and cooperate with others.
“If you know how to share, to work and play together, in short to be friends, you’ll have a happier life, surrounded by healthier people, as you grow up.”
Dr. Tessina says that children don’t need to share everything. “Certain times and things can be reserved for private and family use, but children need to understand those boundaries as they grow up.
“Think in terms of dealing with a college roommate after leaving home. Your child, as a young adult, needs to know how to maintain boundaries and also cooperate and share.
“This begins as a toddler, when you teach your child to share one small toy for a brief time, and increases as the child grows up.
“A child who can’t share won’t have good friends. A child who shares too easily may be taken advantage of.”
If you’ve ever been guilty of getting furious over your child or teenager for not wanting to share something, ask yourself how you conduct the adult version of sharing.
One evening I noticed that the dumpster to my townhome complex was overflowing, and the neighboring one had plenty of room. I deposited an old chair inside it.
Next day, the chair was sitting on my lawn. Obviously, someone had witnessed me use “their” dumpster and felt like being a total shmuck. I wonder if this person scolds his or her child when that child doesn’t want to share.
Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts, and has been in private practice for over 30 years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.