Monday, March 20, 2017

When Sharing ISN'T Caring...

(This is an excerpt from a book I am writing on raising children. It is from the chapter, "It Doesn't Always Have to be About ME!")

While in Florida recently, it was so fun to observe the young moms in the pool with their little children and their children’s belongings. Every day a child would take something that wasn’t theirs, the child whose belongings were taken would freak out, and the other child would often gloat in their possessing something in such high demand. The moms would then jump in: the mom of the “borrower” trying to wrest the toy from her child to return it, and the other mom saying, “no my child has ENOUGH toys: he/she can SHARE!” This happened almost every day with different children and different toys! Moms want to raise kids that share, a noble and needed character quality to have.

There’s a new saying around town to support these efforts: Sharing is CARING! Well, my experience has shown me that sharing is NOT ALWAYS caring. Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching your children to share:

  • Every person, whether adult or child, needs a space to call their own.           
            As your children get older, they begin to work with legos, craft things, games and puzzles that are age appropriate for them, but all the younger ones can do with those things is destroy!

            You will find that if you give each child their “space” and teach them to respect each others “space,” they will not be fighting as much to maintain something (their space) they already have. You will also be better equipping your children for the real world where they can’t just reach over to their neighbor’s desk and use their crayons or markers, or jump into the next guy’s cubicle and use their computer or office equipment. I don’t share everything I own, so why would I expect my children to? 

            Entitlement starts at age 2. Your 2 year old is not entitled to what your 7 year old owns, nor the other way around. This is more important training than sharing.

  • Personal possessions should be personal possessions. 
            When my children wanted to use my computer, I was quick to inform that that PC stood for PERSONAL computer! If I own something, I own it, and it should be up to me whether or not I want to share it! I would tell my children, This ISN’T a socialist house and EVERY THING doesn’t belong to EVERY ONE in it! We are not doing our children any favors to think they are entitled to what other’s have, even if it is their sibling, cousin or friend.

  • Not everything has to be shared with every one. 
            When I have a group meeting at my home, it is ok to put some of my child’s favorite things away so that all the children aren’t playing with things that can be easily ruined.

            There is no way I would have a group over to use my sewing machines! I take such good care of them, and they are so easily broken, and they are very important to me. I waited a long time to get the sewing machines I have, and I don’t intend on having things go wrong with them unless I am the one responsible.

  • When I realize I am going to share things with others, I will get enough to pass around.
            If you know your child has a lot of cousins or friends or family, when you anticipate them sharing something, prepare for it. Tell your son, My friends are coming over today and they are bringing their children. I got extra crayons and color books so we can share, and I got this fun puzzle to put together. I’ll put them here with our sharing toys.

            Now your seven year old doesn’t have to watch your friends 2-year olds break and eat their crayons and scribble all over their favorite coloring book. He doesn’t have to worry about his favorite puzzle if someone starts to eat a piece or throw them in the air because they don’t know how to make puzzles.

            When my friends come over, I may not offer my secret stash of Godiva praline truffles, but I will get special chocolates to put out for them.

  • Sharing is defined as giving a portion; don’t expect your children to give it all.           
            When my children had extra things, I taught them to give to those in need. I didn’t force them to give their possessions to their siblings in GREED, but to share their extras with those in NEED.

  • Sometimes parents can teach MORE to their children by teaching siblings to respect their other siblings’ personal belongings and space than by teaching them they have a right to them. 
            I taught my children that their home was their safe place. No one was entitled to the other’s space or personal possessions. If Daniel started building a 200-page K’Nex merry go round or Jesse was building a 5,000 piece Lego city, they could leave their things there and I trained my other children not to go near those things because they didn’t belong to them.

            When the girls had their craft room, the boys had no entry. When each child received presents, prizes, or gifts that the others didn’t get, I taught the others to be happy for that child and not to expect ownership of any of it. I feel I raised some of the most extravagant givers I know.

These concepts don’t teach children to be selfish, but to be secure enough in owning things so that they were equipped to share and not feel guilty when they didn’t want to. There are things your children will work for and take care of and cherish as they get older, and they shouldn’t have to feel that if they don’t share everything they are selfish and unkind. They are being wise stewards of what they have.

  • Open your circle and let someone in: how to train your children to be extravagant givers.
            Teach your children to share time with others, kind words, acts of kindness, and their “common area” toys. Show them how happy you are when you give to others, and let them help you make baked goods or meals for those in need. Take them to visit the elderly and the hurting with you. Wrap up boxes of extra toys for the homeless shelter and let them accompany you to give the boxes away.

There will be a lot more ideas of teaching sharing in my upcoming book on raising children! I’ll keep you posted!