You’ve probably heard the saying “sharing is caring.” From a very young age, we ask our children to share things with peers or familiar adults. But what if we’ve been wrong this whole time? Here’s our take at SPL, and why it’ll help in social settings to stop forcing kids to share!
Why Our Culture Love Sharing
We all want to live in a world where no problems happen, where children are happy and play together, and where parents can relax because their children are behaving. If our children seem misbehaved or rude, we fear judgment from others. What does it mean about us if our child won’t share?
The Lose-Lose of Sharing
Think about the last time this happened. Maybe your child took a toy out of someone’s hands, or refused to share the trains on the train table. Most often when this happens, we ignore our child’s needs so we can fulfill the social obligation of making others happy. We tell our child to share whatever they have, and take it out of their hands. It often feels like a lose-lose.
Now, think about how that might feel to you as an adult, if a stranger asked to share your coffee or your cell phone. Most of us would recoil and make an excuse as to why we wouldn’t share. Some of us might give it up in an effort to be nice. But as adults, we are able to tell someone no.
If sharing is not developmentally appropriate or needed for our kids too, what can we do instead?
- Teach your child how to say “no.” Teach your child how to advocate for themselves. They can tell the other child “no, I’m not ready,” “no, I don’t want to,” or use a gesture or body posture to let that peer know they aren’t ready to share. This is also true if your child takes something from someone else! You can teach them how to say “I want that,” even if they don’t end up getting what they’re looking for in that moment. Giving a voice to their wants and needs is super important.
- Support the interaction with suggestions. You can create an expectation for what’s to come. Maybe it’s sharing in 5 minutes or when the child is ready to share, maybe it’s getting that child a different toy, or reinforcing a child’s ‘no.’ Either way, step in as a calm presence to find a potential solution.
- Allow children’s emotions to be present. Maybe one or both children are frustrated or upset with the interaction. That’s okay! Allow them to feel how they feel, and let them know you see their experience. It might not change how they feel, but it’ll allow them to feel seen and heard.
- Take care of yourself as the adult. Watching your child want things, or have strong reactions, can be super triggering. Recognize your own reactions to the experience, and find ways to regulate yourself. Maybe a few deep breaths, maybe asking for help, or holding onto a fidget item to release built-up stress. Either way, it’s important to recognize your own experience when disagreements occur; this is a crucial part of supporting our kids!
The practice of caring.
We know not everyone is willing to try this on. Many of you want your child to share, and we understand that!
Spirited Play Labs is a supportive space that allows you to try on new and sometimes uncomfortable styles of parenting. This is especially true for parents of neurodivergent or disabled children. Trying to fit into the norms of social expectation can be exhausting and impossible. Many families at SPL are desperate for positive social experiences with their kids, and have found these methods to be incredibly helpful.
Next time you come in, consider attempting this or watching others do it. We know the practice of supporting your child will be successful no matter what the outcome!!
Our ultimate goal at SPL is to provide a social environment that is supportive of both parents and children. We do this by dropping many of the long-held social rules that are developmentally inappropriate and challenging for most children, especially those that are neurodivergent or disabled. We instead offer low-demand, child-led strategies for parents to feel less stressed and for children to feel seen and supported.
Want to learn more?
See this blog post by author Heather Shumaker from her book “It’s Ok NOT To Share”.