We’ve all been there: Your kid arrives at the playground with a beloved new toy, and is immediately besieged by other kids angling for a “turn” (which, in toddler world, means they’re just grabbing it). Or maybe your kid is the grabber. Either way, it's what you do next that's the subject of much debate. Make your kid share? Or let him say "no"? Here's the argument for encouraging your kid to hold on to their toy.
5 Reasons You Shouldn't Necessarily Make Your Kids Share
It’s beneficial for your kid to do the problem solving
When it comes to resolving conflicts between kids, unless things are really going south (see: throwing sand), experts and educators are increasingly opting for a hands-off approach. Kids learn long-term social skills solving problems by themselves when they’re not hamstrung by (well-intentioned) helicopter adults.
Forced sharing can have the opposite intended effect
For the kid who gets his every desire satisfied—even when that desire is to immediately snatch an awesome Paw Patroller from the hands of an unsuspecting stranger—a sense of entitlement is almost inevitable. On the flipside, asking for a toy and then learning to wait for it helps kids develop patience (hello, delayed gratification!) and—eventually—empathy.
They’re not developmentally ready to share
Speaking of empathy: “True sharing implies empathy, the ability to get into another’s mind and see things from their viewpoint,” writes parenting guru Dr. Sears. “Children are seldom capable of true empathy under the age of six.” A younger child may perceive a treasured possession as an extension of her own body; an indispensible part of her actual self. “Respect and protect your child’s right to his own possessions,” Sears advises.
It can send the wrong message
When you strong-arm your child into giving up something so meaningful to her, you may be teaching her that the biggest person (that would be you) gets to dictate the rules. Or that someone else’s stuff is up for grabs. Or that voicing and standing up for her needs—and simply saying “no”—is unacceptable. Not lessons you stand behind.
Yep, we’re dropping the B-word
“Forced sharing only results in a feeling of powerlessness,” writes one Washington Post columnist. “Don’t make your child search for ways to regain their power. Because who’s the most powerful kid in class? The bully.”
OK, so how do you avoid side-eye from other parents?
If you’re feeling social pressure to step in and referee a squabble, this blogger has a tip we can’t wait to try: "’Sportscast’ the situation with the children,” she suggests. “Describe what you see without judgment—that way you are ‘doing something’ but you're not interfering or offering solutions. Get down to their eye level and say something like: ‘I can see you really want that toy and Jake has it now. Hmmm.’ Or ‘It looks like you're not ready to share that—and Jane really wants a turn. I wonder what we can do?’”