Why I’m Not Teaching My Child to Share

I’ve always thought I was the generous sort. I lent out clothes in college, a cell phone in my 20s and I suffered through summer camps where we were required to share whatever bounty our parents had sent us in the form of a care package.

Over the years, I’ve become a little jaded by sharing.

I lost a lot of the stuff I shared. Clothes got left at a fast food restaurant. The cell phone got stolen at baggage claim. DVDs lent out probably ended up in a pile to Goodwill. And let’s face it, nobody ever sent as good of care packages as my own mom.

So I started saying no to people. Apparently saying you won’t share doesn’t always go down well because I seemed to annoy people from the start with my new policy.

I had a work colleague get offended because I wouldn’t lend him my (admittedly old) car for the day. When I said no, he was incredulous. He felt like I should ‘share’ an item that I owned, just because he didn’t have wheels for the day. I gave him a ride to the metro station instead. Once, while working at a non-profit, someone asked to borrow my laptop simply because he didn’t have his own. Um… no. Someone else thought I was being ridiculous when I wouldn’t let them near my expensive camera.

So I stopped sharing stuff — at least the stuff I really cared about. I decided I wasn’t going to share anything that cost over a certain amount of money, or anything I actually really wanted or needed back.

Really, when was the last time you shared important or expensive stuff? We’re not usually expected to share the items I mentioned above, and yet ‘sharing’ is ingrained in our culture.

Our kids are taught from an early age to share. I hear it ALL. THE. TIME.

‘Share’ your toys.

‘Share’ the book.

Share this. Share that.

On more than one occasion a mother has raised her eyebrows at me because I don’t tell the Peanut he has to share. If he is playing in a group of kids, with several toys, of course he shouldn’t hoard them all. But if a kid comes up and snatches a train right out of his hand, I’m not going to condone that kid’s action by telling the Peanut he has to share. Because he doesn’t. Besides, the other kid is a thief.

In the rare event that I drop my son off at a nursery, I don’t expect him to share his little blue crocheted hippo with anyone. That’s his special comfort toy that he brought with him because he’s not with mama. He doesn’t have to share it.

What I am teaching him is that he shouldn’t snatch things out of other kid’s hands. If another child is playing with a toy, the Peanut should wait his turn until that child is done with it. If the other kid simply hands over the toy while the Peanut whines about it, what’s that actually teaching either child? Cry loud enough and you’ll get the toy?

Obviously, if someone comes over to play at our place, the Peanut has to share his stuff. But if there’s something special that I know he’s attached to, I put it away for the afternoon. When the Peanut is older, I’ll make sure that he knows he has to put away his special toys that he may not want other children to play with.

It’s not just stuff we are taught to share though. Nowadays we share thoughts, comments, opinions. You can even share this article.

Repost, retweet, regram, reshare. Remind me again, WHY?

While I love keeping up with friends around the world and their growing families, I have little patience for people who seem to be interacting on social media more than they are with their children. Have a little decorum and stop sharing everything. (Seriously people, I do NOT want to scroll through my Facebook feed to see a body part that is bruised, bloody or otherwise hanging by a tendon. That ‘hide post’ feature is there for a reason and lately I’ve been using it A LOT.)

I decided early on in my personal blog to never show the faces of the Sailor or the Peanut. It’s not that I’m afraid of perverts who might manipulate the photo in some way (although there is THAT), but somehow there is something special and sacred in having photos that we only share among our little family.

Our kids see everything we do.

They see us on our phones, tablets and laptops. They see us sharing posts. One day, they will understand just how much we shared about them. While I’m grateful my mother took the proverbial cute bathtub photo of me, I’m even more thankful social media didn’t exist back in the day for that photo (among others) to be out there forever.

So, I’m teaching my child that he doesn’t have to share everything, publicly. He’s clearly too young to be online, but I know he’s already watching me. And I’m keeping this non-sharing strategy in mind for when he’s older.

Finally, I’m teaching the Peanut that he doesn’t have to share his body.

This is a touchy subject between family members who may expect a hug or a kiss from the little guy. But I never want my son to feel like he is forced into sharing his body with anyone. It might seem innocent enough, but I can remember awkwardly giving family friends hugs when I was a child, thinking to myself, ‘why do I have to touch them?’ 

The Peanut is learning early on that being polite to people by saying hello and making eye contact is not up for debate, but sharing his body is entirely his choice.

So, no sharing for our family. How about you? What are you not sharing?

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4 Responses to Why I’m Not Teaching My Child to Share

  1. A Walker February 16, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    Amen!! I’ve always thought this way too!!

    • Brenda Steffen
      Brenda Steffen February 20, 2017 at 5:41 am #

      Thank you!

  2. T. Mealor February 17, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    It seems as if you have had some bad experiences and are expressing your strong reaction in search of valadation and comradeship. A co-worker should not ask you to borrow your car, a child should not snatch your child’s toy, and no one should give hugs if they choose not to. These things are NOT about sharing. These things are about boundaries. If your child is playing with community toys for an extended amount of time witthout allowing other to have a “turn,”well, that is a lack of sharing. Learning to share is also learning to communicate and negotiate and to express boundaries when necessary. Sharing is about mutual respect and cooperation. I sincerely hope other parents continue to teach their children to share.

    • Brenda Steffen
      Brenda Steffen February 20, 2017 at 6:09 am #

      Thank you for reading the article and commenting on it. I appreciate you sharing your point of view. However, I never write for validation or comradeship (although it’s a bonus if either are received!) I merely wrote the story to offer my own perspective. And while a co-worker shouldn’t necessary ask to borrow the things I mentioned, nor should a child snatch things out of someone’s hand, it still happens. I’ve seen parents tell their children to ‘share’ right after another child takes a toy from them. I never implied that my son would hog all of the toys and ‘not’ share anything, simply that there are certain things he doesn’t need to share. Thanks again for reading!