Main Idea: making your children share as a social “grace” teaches the wrong lessons about consent, ownership, and a host of other things.
Every mom who’s sent kids to government-run schools has had the valentine’s day card exchange challenge. Buy a box, get the class list, fill them all out, attach a candy, and send them on the school bus hoping it’s a fun day and not an anxiety-ridden fair-fest where kids are intentionally mean to the smelly and the ugly among them while heaping praise on the pretty ones.
As parents we can all agree that there are certain things we hope for our children, and that we try our best to instill in them. Among them are that they are respectful, kind, and generous. So let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. FORCED SHARING DOESN’T WORK. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, we said it. No, we are not sorry.
We have all been there, at the play date with the kid who has more “things” than they know what to do with, and a mom that intently reminds them to share every toy they pick up. Depending on the age and developmental maturity of the child, they may not even fully understand what they are being commanded to do. The truth is that children begin to learn the concept of sharing at around age 3, but are not developmentally capable of truly grasping the concept of sharing until roughly 4-5 years old according to most child psychologists.
There are plenty of articles available where there are suggestions for age-appropriate methods to teach your children to share over time, but that is not what we want to chat about. Let’s talk about what happens when you force your children to share, whether before they are capable of understanding the concept or simply because they do not want to.
- Consent is not important
- The child is not being given an opportunity to benefit from the positive feelings that stem from being generous or voluntarily doing something good
- The child may be viewed as a “bad kid” if they don’t share with other children
- The child is not allowed to control the property that may be important to them
So let’s talk about why these are important. Consent is a topic we have discussed before within our “Boys will be Boys” series. While that conversation was more specifically geared toward sexual assault and other physical touch, consent is something that is learned very early, and that is learned in these fundamental concepts. Respect for consent (whether received or given) is an important lesson.
Sharing is not generosity if it is forced, but rather it is simply a mandated reallocation of the use of certain goods and resources. This is why government (entitlement) programs are not beneficial to society as a whole. Instead of creating a society in which people who have extra share freely with those in need, a system is created where a government determines how much of what you have is enough, then takes the rest to distribute to those it deems “in need”. There is nothing voluntary about something that is forced.
In past episodes we have talked about the importance of extending the same liberty to others that we wish to have for ourselves. By giving our children opportunities to make decisions as to how they will use or share their things allows them to experience the benefit of generosity and empowers them to share as they see fit.
Generosity is one of the best qualities we can instill in our children. If you have been around for a while you know we talk a lot about concepts of cooperation, accountability, and personal responsibility. These things, combined with generosity and the non-aggression principle (the NAP), are the building blocks of voluntaryism. Voluntaryism is a rejection of the State whereby members of a community self-regulate to ensure the success of the community as a whole.
Teaching our children these foundational principles ensures that we are raising the next generation to be free-thinking individuals capable of being independently generous without being mandated to do so.
Articles on this topic you may enjoy:
Why You Shouldn’t Force Your Kid to Share
Why Kids Shouldn’t Be Forced to Share (And What to Do Instead)
Dr. Ellen Kenner The Rational Basis of Happiness, Beware of Forced Kindness
Sharing is Caring…AND a Developmental Milestone – Great Kids, Inc.
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