To share or not to share


Should you teach your kids to share?

This article, by “Very Bloggy Beth” in Popsugar Moms, questions the current parenting wisdom of forcing children to share everything with everybody.

I commented on it, but in comments one can never really go into enough depth.

In essence the mom highlights 3 situations:  The policy at the preschool her toddler visits; a situation of sharing his personal toy with a stranger in the park, and a situation at a public playground where there are bumper cars, and having got there first.  The image (above, I made her share it LOL), speaks volumes.  The microbiologist in me simply cringes.  I know too much about toddlers forgetting to wash hands, and diseases such as rotavirus, Hep C (NOT Hep B which is an STD), and E. coli being passed around in nursery and other schools.  Bad enough they have to share toilets!  (Thursday was a case in point, at the primary school my daughter visits, and acc. the Doc, plenty of other schools in the area:  I was called in to fetch my little girl home; and there were 11 kids in the sick room!  3 on one bed, 2 on another and 5 sitting on the floor waiting to be picked up, all sick with gastro.)

But sharing food aside.  Sharing is a huge topic and should be differentiated.

Firstly, sharing food:  If my kids have a bag of sweeties (which is never the case, but I’m just saying), they are not allowed to eat it in front of others whom they know without offering.  It’s a bit rich to expect them to share their treats with every passerby on the road.  Sharing anything liquid, let alone ice cream:  Strictly only between siblings, because I know what caries and other sicknesses run around in this family.  I don’t want other people’s germs in my kids.  And, I’m perfectly sure, vice versa.

Beggars:  There’s one on every street corner.  Try as I may, (as per setting an example), there is no way I can give every one of them something (share my earned income with non-earners).  Here and there I can, and do. But to a large percentage I end up cursed anyway, by all those who didn’t get a share of what I worked for.  You see, it’s quite crooked:  You’re expected to give selflessly, knowing that for what little you can give, no genuine thanks are forthcoming, and if you can’t you’ll be cursed for it.  But… it’s money I earned honestly, so in the first place, why do I have to share it with those who don’t want to work?  What I’m much more likely to do is hand them a sweetie, a stick of gum, or something of that sort.  That inevitably brightens their day – genuinely, I can see it in the grins.  It may not do much more than that… but neither do the few coins, don’t think they buy food from those, and don’t even think they get to keep most of those for themselves.  But all this is for another post.

Sharing toys:  Here it gets more complex.  If you share food, you know you’re not getting what you gave, back.  This is obvious.  If you share your toy, will you get it back?  Does a 3-year-old understand?  And a 12-month-old?  In the old psychology books the teachings were that at that age children have not yet developed a sense of constancy; i.e. when Mommy is out of the room she’s gone forever.  Hence the immense clinginess of babies that age.  Try to convince such a tiny one that if he gives his toy to a friend, it’s still his and he’ll get it back?  They don’t understand the concepts yet.  If it’s in my hand, it is mine.  (Seems to me the bloody burglars that looted us are also stuck at that mental age.)

Even more unfair, expecting children to share birthday presents they have just received.  No!  That completely negates the concept of a present (and ownership) in the first place.  It takes a bit of doing explaining to a 3-year-old that she is picking a present for her friend so that her friend can have it.  I involve my kids in the whole process and let them select (from a tiny age) what their friend would like most.  Usually we’re spot-on, and the joy is in seeing their friend unwrap and play with their present.  Not, trying to grab it oneself.

So I disagree with the mom who said, don’t take your toys to a public place.  Extrapolate this and it means:  Don’t carry a handbag on you because you’re preparing to give it to a thief.  Don’t take your cellphone out in public – someone might make off with it.  Has the world gone that bad already?  Here in South Africa, crime capital of the world, women still carry handbags, men still carry wallets and keys on them, everyone still yaks on their cellphone in public without permanently looking over their shoulders whether they are offending someone poorer.  Has the approach world-wide changed to this?

As for the bumper car her toddler “hogged” for the whole time she was there:  There were plenty of available bumper cars, and as she mentioned, also another red one.  Her son got there first.  It is like this with shared resources everywhere:  First come, first served.  If I have a prime lesson slot and a student booked it first, another student can try to ask for it, and I can try to find out if there isn’t a slot that suits the first student even better, but normally, the answer is that the newcomer takes what is available, basta.  This concept that everyone must make space for Me and give Me a “turn” even though they were there first – it is bullying and pushing the queue.  And if I was stupid and waited too long before going and there’s no pudding left, I’m not going to go to one of the other guests and demand they share theirs.  If you please?

Offering treats to guests:  It is indeed rude to leave treats out in plain sight and not offer them.  It is fine to have special treats and keep them to yourselves but don’t put them in plain sight.  If you do, expect guests to ask, and be prepared to offer.  We also used to put extra-special toys away when too many came to play.

It’s not about making a generation selfish:  It’s about not making them into pushovers.  Selfish is when I see that you have something I want, and therefore you must share.  There are plenty of things people have that others want, and that’s not always to say it’s the poorer kid who wants them (it actually has nothing to do with that).  It’s cheap if I want something you have, to call you selfish if you don’t want to give it to me.  Who’s the selfish one?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!


20 thoughts on “To share or not to share

  1. As with everything, it is a question of balance. It should always be give and take on both sides, not give and give on one and take and take on the other.
    The whole idea of entitlement is skewed. ‘I want, therefore you must give,’ No.
    Give within reason, take within reason and with responsibility, share or not share also within reason.
    I don’t ‘do’ beggars. Those with ‘need job’ placards have, time and again, turned down offers of work – or taken one, plus anything they could lay their hands on before vanishing..

    • I don’t really wish to spark a controversy here, but are you basing that last statement on some kind of quantifiable, verifiable survey, or is it simply your impression?

    • I can’t see such an obvious truism either needing the verification of a survey or sparking any kind of controversy. What part of that can be regarded as open to dispute?

    • Oh, sorry, didn’t scroll down to the ‘last statement’.
      That was based on personal experience and those of many others of my ken. On the other side of that coin, I don’t know of any one who has actually made a success of such an offer. So, yes, it is a personal impression gleaned from such information as is at my disposal.

    • Hi Col, Marie. 🙂 Thanks for checking in! Col, I agree about the sharing: it needs to be balanced, and there are certain things for sharing and others absolutely not (e.g. I wouldn’t dream of sharing my spouse, as in some of the old hippy communities.. Wouldn’t necessarily share my toothbrush either).

      Re beggars, yes I made the same experience and yet I can’t help feeling desperately sorry for them (even those bums who are simply not interested in working though they have good hands). I keep wishing I could come up with an idea that will not feed them a fish for a day but teach them to fish – but not in my house, thanks! The saddest part is that a lot of the youngsters begging are controlled by beggar bosses – now those I’d love to lock up and give them state-funded bed-n-breakfast.

    • I know for a fact that some of our white beggars (without overlords) are not at all interested in doing anything else for a living. Sadly enough, they often make a far better living than people like car guards, who at least try to deliver a service.

    • Marie, 🙂 the problem of begging is so pervasive here. 90% of them are part of a beggar organization (yes, think Ankh-Morpork). The beggar boss positions “his” kids on the various street corners, all with the same message on their boards. (Sometimes the message is even humorous – if they make me laugh, inevitably they get something from me, but I’m an idealist – by the third time I see the same cute sign, the depression is back. They have to hand over a large part of what I give them, to their “boss”.) One needs to understand that whatever is written on those boards is purely for effect, whether it be “need a job” or “I’d rather starve to death than steal from you”. It is marketing, aimed to a large extent on the soft-hearted and slightly guilt-ridden white middle-class female. Add to this that the large majority of whites here (and a huge part of the non-whites) is Christian, and you see the market gap.

      But people I know have tried to pick up one of those begging kids and take them to a shelter – and were pursued and accused of kidnapping by the beggar boss. That’s how bad it is.

      The really heartbreaking part is that at this moment, Pretoria News estimates about 5000 homeless roaming the streets of Pretoria. I still think it’s an underestimate, the Buurtwag rounded up 42 (young, male, single) homeless vagabonds in the river area behind our flats, alone.

    • 🙂 Yeah… I thought maybe not. I was hoping it wasn’t yet quite that bad in UK. Perhaps I’m living in a dreamworld a bit, idealizing foreign countries into something slightly Utopian.

    • Lyz, the main clue in the UK is if they have the same colour blanket over their knees. But even that can’t stop them being individuals, or so I’ve found.

  2. I could write a book on personal property, ‘private’ property, communal property, and the meaning of ‘holding all things in common’. If I wasn’t writing so much other stuff I would simply sit down and do it!

    Regarding children, I think it is important for them to learn by example. If they see the balance of personal and shared in their parents and older family members, they will get the idea. In general, though, a parent has to think on her feet; it might be possible in some circumstances to say to a child “This is your bag of sweets to share with your six friends – make sure no one is left out”, where in other circumstances that might not work.

    With beggars it is best not to think about whether they deserve a hand out, or whether they’ll go and spend the money on booze or dope (money ALWAYS gravitates towards someone richer, no matter to whom you give it – if they went to a coffee shop it would go to the proprietor, then to the wholesaler for stock, then… you see what I mean). What matters with down-and-outs is human contact. Even they might not realise it, but it does. Even though 9 out of 10 might be con-artists or be working for a begging ring, it does. Ask Paul about his daughter and the beggar in Edinburgh. 🙂

    • Well,yes. You’re absolutely right, though if you see these little emaciated forms you’ll also agree it’s about food. If I have food in the car I’m very quick to give them something to eat rather than to spend, because they get to keep all of that.

      A lot of “ours” are from up north, coming in from the rest of Africa where they were in an even worse position. We have open borders, now you can imagine, the tiny middle class (possibly 10% of 4% of Africa) trying to feed the other 99.6%…

      As for coffee shops, they are more likely to frequent the “Spaza Shops” and shebeens (I know that’s an Irish word, but they call them that here, too). In that case the money does circulate among the poor circles far longer, which is good where food is concerned but not so great where the drug trade is involved. 😦 *sigh*

    • One of the more rattling encounters I had with a beggar was not too long ago – this was not your typical beggar-ring kid. She was an adult, a young woman, white, and I could see (by the state of her clothes and non-burnt condition of her face) that she had recently hit hard times. She was so ashamed, she couldn’t look into people’s eyes. This was not your routined beggar who expects anything from coins to abuse; this was a newly crashed individual who was standing there sacrificing her former self-respect for the sake of her family. (With that I mean parents and sibs, she was too young to have children.)

      That really burnt. I hope somebody has managed to offer her a job in the interim.

    • Hi Col. Following up on this: Tragically, she and her brother both are still in the same begging spot. His board has been copied by another beggar (non-white), now it’s quite possible they’re in the ring. Her eyes have gone flat. She has resigned herself to her fate. Add to the already bad situation the contempt she faces from the media calling “white trash must go”. Go? Go where? How? How is she different from the non-white “trash”, in which way is she trash and they are not? Which country calls any of its citizens “trash”? It makes me so sad!

  3. Interesting most of your comments relate to giving to beggars, and your SA scene sounds very different to Spain, Gib, and UK when I was last there.

    But I’ll start with kids. As an only child, I didn’t have to share with sibs, although would have shared everything with my dog. When my cousins came, I was happy for them to play with my toys, but was always upset I got to put away on my own as they were merrily driven away. Such is life. Clean up after someone else?

    On beggars and homeless? This is the easiest way to give you my views. As I say, every environment is different.

    • 🙂 Hi, thanks for stopping in! Yes, we know about the cousins effect…. 😉 Though at least, by now my sis and I have agreed about our children having to help clear up where they messed up.

      Commented on your blog.

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