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!