To Share or Not to Share... part 1

Should a 15 month old be expected to share?
Parents were split on this question, which would explain the chaos at any city park.  Grandparents and non-parents were slightly more sure of the fact that young toddlers should in fact be expected to share. Unfortunately, for those adults and more to the point the young children in their care, research offers the opposite answer. Children this young cannot be expected to share their toys. In fact many developmental experts place the age of expectation (where you can reasonably assume consistency) around late preschool for comfortable relationships and early elementary school for less familiar relationships.
We know at this point you may be reeling and thinking "That's ridiculous! It would just be a free for all!" or "How can they learn if we don't teach them?" or "They will all be brats!"
This is a rather complicated issue. In one of our favorite books, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be- this topic takes up a whole chapter.
So bear with us, there's a lovely middle ground between forcing a child to do something they cannot developmentally handle and feeling like the world is going to cave in on itself if you don't teach your child manners.
But just take a moment and think about your day.
How often do you share something that's really important to you?
The next time you are at the park and you've brought your morning latte think about how likely it is that you would share it.
What would make you give away your morning treat?
What if the person was a perfect stranger? You may offer help- you may mention where you stopped for your desirable drink and give the other person directions. 
What if the person was rude? Nope.
What if the person was dirty and creepy? Not a chance.
What if the person was George Clooney? Certainly- who needs to drink coffee-you're awake now!
What if the person was your friend and you knew she was having a hard week and looked like she could really use a pick me up? You might offer it to her.
And what is the difference between these scenarios?
Empathy and a connection. True sharing is more than just the giving up of an object. The act requires the ability  to empathize or predict the need of another and act on this assumption.
(So sharing with Clooney isn't so much sharing -as it is bribery.)
It's the ability to understand that other people have feelings and desires too. " I can see you want it. Your want is greater than mine so you have it." But you cannot understand an other's feelings until you understand that you are an individual and you understand your own feelings and desires.
This act cannot become a series of rote rules. It loses the lesson. When we tell a child to go against their personal desire to please another we've just taught the art of people pleasing not the act of sharing.

Our hearts are in the right place, we want world peace and so we will start at home or the park. We want our children to be kind, loving, generous, giving people. But here is where our belief of the world fails us, we think we need to make that happen instead of trust that they are fundamentally kind, loving, generous, and giving. And when you can trust that -giving up on sharing at the park gets a little easier.
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  1. I think your analogy of who a mom would share her morning coffee with is priceless! The age to begin to learn the lessons of life is at the beginning, and it never really ends, huh?

  2. Great post! I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. The oldest does have a good grasp of the concept, but of the youngest, of course, has no idea. I think the hardest part is helping my oldest understand why her sister cannot be expected to share.


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