My Child Does Not HAVE to Share With Your Child

Read the title of this post. Now reread it again.

Because I can ensure you that you read that right. I am TEACHING my daughter she does not have to share with your child, or any other child.

My Child Does Not Have To Share With Your ChildI saw you. You were another mom enjoying the beautiful day at the park with her children, much as I was with my daughter. I watched as your gaze followed your son as he approached my daughter and asked her ever so nicely to share her chalk with him. I also saw your eyes almost bug out of your head and you purse your lips together in a dismissive frown when she replied, “no thanks” and continued drawing.

Now I’m sure you were wondering why–why I didn’t intervene and remind my daughter that she wasn’t being polite. I could see it in the way you scoffed when I reassured my daughter as she looked at me expectantly that she did not, in fact, have to share if she did not want to.

As a mom, I made a conscious choice to teach this to my daughter.

I decided that though “sharing is caring”, it isn’t mandatory. I did not want to embed the idea of sharing so deeply within my daughter’s mind that she felt forced to give up something simply because it was expected of her. My daughter shouldn’t think that she couldn’t say no. She should not believe her saying ‘no’ to someone and making them upset, meant that she should have said ‘yes’.

To make one thing very clear, I have taught my daughter the importance of sharing. Sharing is a vital life skill. I believe sharing is a way for toddlers and young children to build friendships and form strong communication skills. More often than not, children share tangible items more than any other age group. Children, from toddlers to their teenage years, might share their toys, clothing or accessories, sports equipment, electronics, and so on. As adults, we typically share words, advice, or even our time. But we, as adults, are not giving up our near-and-dear to us possessions, so why are we forcing our children to?

The ‘social norm’ accepts the concept of sharing, but seems to balk at the idea of not sharing.

Sharing is typically good, but there is a fine line where sharing can be wrong. When we share, we learn how to compromise, negotiate, and to cope with disappointment. However, sometimes when sharing, there won’t always be easy choices. Consider this; my daughter has a stuffed animal and a friend asks to play with it. A number of outcomes could unfold. My daughter could say no and the friend becomes upset at not getting a chance to play with the stuffed animal. The two could choose to play with the stuffed animal together. Or my daughter could wearily hand over the stuffed animal to her friend, and feel her own sense of defeat at having given up her toy.

All of the above scenarios are plausible. Yet, only 1 out of 3 given options resulted in a compromise that pleases both parties. If the two are not willing to play together; then which child should feel bad? It’s an impossible choice.

You may question my parenting when I say “my daughter’s toy, my daughter’s choice”. Though, somehow, you aren’t questioning the greediness of one child to assume another must share with them.

Why is my daughter declining to share with your child a problem, but your child feeling entitled to my daughter’s possessions is not?

I want to shift the focus of sharing to the one asking to for the toy. As a child, or even adult, you might become frustrated and deem it unfair that someone else won’t share with you; however, expecting someone to share something with you is just as unfair. It’s not right to feel a  privilege to another one’s items.

I have taught my daughter it is okay to say no. She is allowed to set boundaries. It does not make her selfish, and it does not make her mean. It makes her a child that owns the right to her own things.

So yes, I have taught my daughter about sharing.

But no, she still does not HAVE to share with your child.


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Carly is a true Iowan, born and raised. She’s a Pinterest fail type of single mom to six year old Stella, who enthusiastically dances to the beat of her own drum. For her day job you’ll find her with a cup of coffee in hand as a secretary at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. After hours, she’s bingeing her true crime podcasts, reading all the books, and having mini JoJo Siwa dance parties with her daughter Stella.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Amen!!! Forcing sharing is actually teaching kids that sharing means giving something you love or are using to someone else. Who would want to do that? That’s not the heart behind true sharing. I want to raise authentic people who aren’t afraid to set healthy boundaries for themselves!

  2. Bravo! I wish I’d instilled this lesson in my daughter. Fast forward to fourth grade where my child who loves to share has her snacks and water bottle routinely “shared” even when she doesn’t want to. Kids can be very mean and if your child doesn’t learn to set boundaries comfortably they will suffer later.

  3. Thanks for this post. I have seen those eyes in other moms… in friends… but I decided to focus more in my own kids eyes and that helped me to understand that what you are expressing in your article was exactly what I needed to do… I am glad to know I am not alone.

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