Expecting Our Children To Share, What Is This All About?

Girls Sharing Chocolate Milk

‘Johnnie, share your toy!’

‘No, stop playing with your toy and give it to Mary!’

‘Stop being mean, you can share or else we are going home!’

Just a few examples of phrases I have heard at baby groups. It makes me really upset hearing these. I would never expect another child to stop playing and exploring with their toy in order to accommodate Freddie, and vice versa. If Freddie is playing with a toy that another child wants, I will simply and kindly say ‘I know how badly you want to play with this toy, however Freddie is playing with it at the moment but I will let you know when he’s finished with it.’

I just don’t understand the whole culture around making our children share something they don’t want to share. Sure, it’s always nice to share but children don’t understand the importance behind sharing, they must learn this themselves and threatening them or labelling them as ‘naughty’ if they don’t share their beloved toy is just confusing and mean in their eyes.

You know, we don’t walk into a cafe and ask the waitress to tell Bill over in the corner to stop reading his newspaper because Fanny-Ann wants to read it. No, you just patiently wait your turn or kindly ask them if they will let you know when they are done with it.

There are extremes at either end of this argument, like everything, and I think it’s about finding a reasonable balance. Sharing is a nice thing to do and we can model this to our children in day-to-day situations. However we shouldn’t force sharing on our children if they don’t want to.

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23 thoughts on “Expecting Our Children To Share, What Is This All About?

  1. I see where you are coming from but i’m at the other end of the spectrum on this topic. I agree that learning to share can be a challenge for young children, but i do think that sharing is a key skill they need for play and learning throughout childhood. It’s something that should be encouraged, never forced, and children need to learn in order to make (and keep) friends and play cooperatively with others. xxx

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  2. I think it’s important that children learn boundaries on this, people do need to learn to share things and yes as adult we share many communal things, it is not as simple ‘we don’t share here’. However what is important here is that sharing is an abstract thought to a child of Freddie’s age. Really this shouldn’t even be coming up for you he’s too young. Even an older child doesn’t have the capacity to ‘share’ what a child sees is someone else getting something they want, they can’t understand that it isn’t theirs or if it is that they will get it back. What I and other friends of mine have done with our children is ‘take turns’ making it clear that after a time the toy can be given to someone else and vice versa but they will get it back if they are kind enough to give a turn to another child and the other important thing as they grow is swapping. You can ask that child if they will swap toys with you for example, this often helps both children be happy and not leave one upset. Notice of course my use of the word child. Freddie is not a child he is a baby and as such this shouldn’t be a thing but with time you can and will teach your child to take turns with things at baby groups and the learn to communicate through swapping, sharing etc. Once he’s old enough to understand the feelings of others as well as his own then giving and kindness to others become a major part of what you teach your child.

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  3. I agree that sharing should never be forced upon a child but I think it can be modeled in the every day and encouraged as they learn and grow. I don’t think sharing comes naturally and even into adulthood we don’t always share everything, only some things. For instance, we wouldn’t share our tooth brushes with anyone else or our underwear because of personal hygiene issues so I think that making the distinctions of what can and ought not to be shared is also crucial.

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  4. It’s fab to see kids sharing but its not always easy for them to learn. I think as a kid growing up with my sister we learnt to share from a young age, however for my daughter who is a only child it a lot different, although she does share with mummy. It’s certainly something that happens more as they get older but its an ages and stages thing.

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  5. Aah it’s a hard one. As a mum of twins I am *constantly* telling my boys to share. On one hand, why should you have to share your prized possession with someone else? Especially when you’re only two and don’t fully understand the concept! I’d never expect them to share their favourite toy with each other though β€” or anyone else for that matter. Some things are sacred!

    But on the other, learning to share is what makes a nice, well rounded human. No one likes a selfish person, do they? I guess it’s something that is learnt with age but I definitely think it’s good to put the building blocks in place when our children are little.

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  6. I find it bizarre how people expect children to share, the same with telling a child off for touching an ornament…they don’t know it isn’t a toy until they are taught. Anything I want keeping safe is moved out of reach and Lucas can explore the rest without being restricted x

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  7. I think there needs to be a happy medium, it is important to teach children to share but at the same time they are still learning and it can be difficult for them to grasp such an adult emotion. It is definitely a difficult one to evaluate.

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  8. I can see your point but sharing is an important skill that children need to learn. My daughter is 2 years and two months but she understands the concept of “share nicely” with her little sister. I have watched her snatch a toy from her sister (10 months) and when I have told her off she says “share nicely”.

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    • Yes I agree entirely, I think there are extreme points of views from either end. I think it’s important for anyone to share, but adults dont HAVE to share (in most circumstances) if they dont want to and most adults don’t WANT to share so we find ways around it. For example hiding a chocolate bar to eat later without having to share it (i’m guilty of that!) And most children are the same, they don’t want to share their toys for whatever reason. In certain situations I think that’s perfectly okay.


  9. I think it depends partly how old they are – really little ones just don’t understand so trying to make them share doesn’t work (although modelling is great) but I do think it’s important to teach about sharing and waiting for our turn as soon as possible. It is a learned skill but an important one.


  10. I don’t make Monkey share everything but if he’s eating a snack and we are with friends then I ask him to share his crisps or whatever and now at 3.5 he normally obliges and happily divides them out. Toys are much more precious but he’s getting there – having a sibling soon will probably put a whole new slant on things! πŸ™‚ X

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  11. I think sharing is an important things for children to learn. Yes it doesn’t always make sense, but they should be encouraged to share their toys if other children come to visit, rather than hogging something which is a communal item.

    But it’s all in the phrasing.I do tend to say that if he doesn’t want to share his toys, then they’re put away.


  12. I do think that it has to be led by age and situation, very small children don’t understand the concept and shouldn’t be made to, as it can just be upsetting for them. I think it’s good for older children to learn that sharing is part of how we consider other people’s feeling and interact with them. Of course adults don’t share in that same way but if someone was hogging a swimming lane, for example, I’d getting pretty annoyed πŸ™‚

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  13. I have seen it before where parents tell their kids to share in the middle of them playing with the toy. I too can understand the argument on both sides but you’re right we should not expect our child to stop playing with their toy just to accommodate another child.

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  14. This is really interesting and I’ve heard this point of view before. I am inclined to agree with you and I think another important point is that the child who is waiting for the item won’t learn patience if the child who is already playing with it is immediately asked to give it up.x

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  15. I’m on the fence with this one. I am a lot more crunchy than I ever expecte to be but still some phrases naturally slip out, such as sharing. The points you make are valid, but how are you ever expected to learn to wait patiently if you are not taught the concept of sharing? More often than not I need to remind my big one to share when he snatches off his little brother. And it is lovely when they do learn and take turns.

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  16. I can see where you are coming from completely here. I certainly don’t agree with labelling a child as naughty, they need support and encouragement to understand the the situation. My 3 year old gets very cross about sharing her toys with her sister, but I try and encourage her to understand that it’s not just about her own needs and sharing and playing with her sister will bring her a lot of joy.


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