We Shouldn't Teach Kids To Share
by Dezi Hall
Sharing is caring. Right? Right??? Say you agree or else you are a terrible human being (were you an only child?) and you will have no friends and no one will like you, you selfish little troll-person. This is the essence of the Sharing Culture in the US. When it comes to raising upstanding citizens, there is no debate about this golden rule. It is firmly cemented in our minds, consciences, and plastered on the walls of kindergarten rooms everywhere.
I am not a proponent of hoarding and snarling any time someone comes in breathing distance of your slime (?). Is that what kids play with now instead of Pogs? But let me say something in defense of not sharing.
I think we have overcorrected a bit in this department and have fallen short of teaching our kids how to be emotionally well-rounded individuals. We raise them in a capitalist country constantly showing if not telling them that we work hard to get what we want. But then we expect them to give up whatever they have, if someone asks politely for it. This, my friends, is nuts.
We need to teach them not that sharing is caring cart blanche, but that sharing is caring when you care about who you're sharing with.
If some random kid comes up to mine at the playground and asks if she'll share her hologram American Girl Doll (?) with her, it should be up to her if she chooses to share or not. It should in no way be mandatory that she give up her beloved things simply because someone asked her to. This is a lesson in thoughtfulness but also a lesson in autonomy and protecting your autonomy that kids (especially little girls) need to have. I do not need more ways to force my daughter to give up what is hers because someone wants her to. I need ways to enforce that she is the master of her self and all extensions of that self.
If my brother politely asked to borrow my car, I would toss him the keys without hesitation. (Mostly. Assuming he'd been nice to me that week.) This is because I know him, I love him and there is an unstated agreement that he will treat my things with respect. If a woman down the street asked me to borrow my car, I'd have to think about that. Is there an emergency? Why does she need it? How would she be accountable if something happened to it? If I didn't feel comfortable, I would be justified in flat out saying no.
Kindness is great. It's essential, really. But just like we need to learn to be kind to others, we need someone to teach us to be kind to ourselves. You might think that this is ridiculous, and that sharing absolutely is necessary no matter what. That kindness is predicated on sharing without prejudice. Or even that kids sharing toys doesn't mean that much in the scheme of things. But I really believe it does. The way children (again, especially little girls) are taught to push their own feelings of violation and discomfort aside in order to make others happy starts immediately. It starts when you tell them it doesn't matter that they love their doll or truck. If someone else nicely demands it, give it to them. And don't be sad about it either. Don't feel anything except for joy that you could give something of yourself to make someone else happy. This isn't what I want to teach my daughter.
If my daughter's cousins come to play I will absolutely encourage fair sharing. But I will not urge or insist or even suggest that she should do the same with strangers if she doesn't feel comfortable. Do I hope she shares with kids on the playground? Of course. But will I force her to? No way.