When The Boy Who Won’t Share Anything Becomes Mr. Thoughtful

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**This is a guest post by Kelly Bartlett, author of Parenting From Scratch and contributing editor of API Speaks.**

Yesterday, JJ willingly gave up his spot on the playground, stepping aside from the climbing structure and saying to a girl, “Here, would you like a turn?” He could see she was standing there at the bottom, watching and waiting for him to be done.

A few days before that, he noticed that his 3-year-old cousin was having a hard time sitting still during a presentation at the nature center, and as a suggested solution, he whispered to me, “Mom, Oscar can play with my cars that are in your purse if he wants to.”

When did this happen? When did my son become The Boy Who Won’t Share Anything to Mr. Thoughtful? I think it was around age…? Hm. I don’t think there was magic age. But age is key here.

His moments of consideration are a big deal to me because once upon a time there was a 3-year old JJ who wouldn’t share. Toys were something to be possessed, hoarded, whined about if someone even looked at something he was playing with. I remember when sharing (or lack thereof) was a big “parenting issue” for us.
Not so much anymore. Now he is 6. Now he makes an effort to offer toys and turns.

And why is sharing no longer an issue for us? Was it because he was coached with my motherly choruses of, “Oh, let’s share! We share with friends! Share! You take a turn then she takes a turn! Share! You have one more minute then it’s time to share! Share! Share!”? No, it’s because he grew up. The difference is now he’s 6 instead of 3. That’s it.

So many “parenting issues” are phases of behavior that a child will naturally outgrow if given support, understanding, help, and acceptance. We support our kids through their difficult stages of development, redirect their energy when necessary, help them find acceptable solutions, and understand that they will outgrow difficult behaviors in their own time. And then we let kids do just that.

Looking back, I see that my parenting efforts surrounding “issues” like sharing were mostly based in fear.

I was afraid that my son would never share. That his behavior would always be the this way. Forever. Maybe you have similar fears. That your child will always be The Girl who Hits, or the Boy Who Won’t Use The Potty, or The Girl Who Doesn’t Stay In Bed At Night, or…you get the idea. We’re afraid for the permanence of this behavior and we think we need to do something about it now.

I thought I had to actively teach JJ about sharing, when all I really needed to do was support him in his current level of development and trust that his brain would mature. I didn’t teach JJ how to share. He grew up, and now he’s capable of sharing.

Most challenging behaviors don’t require doing to, they require getting through.

Teaching takes time more than anything else.

Kelly Bartlett is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator and a freelance parenting writer with a focus on child development, family relationships and discipline. She is the author of Parenting From Scratch, where she blogs about her family’s endeavors in unconditional parenting.

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counseling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

4 thoughts on “When The Boy Who Won’t Share Anything Becomes Mr. Thoughtful

  1. It always upsets me when parents force their kids to ‘share’ — since the whole concept of ‘sharing’ presupposes that it is a *voluntary* act. It also presupposes the concept of ownership or belonging. Very young children don’t understand ownership so we can’t expect them to understand sharing, either.

    When they are old enough, we can gently explain to our kids the benefits of sharing in terms they can understand, but ultimately we need to let them choose whether or not they are willing to share their things.

    Other times we confuse ‘sharing’ when the concept does not apply. For example, giving someone else a turn on the swing at a park is not really sharing (or rather, the park is sharing its swing with *us*, and mandates a time limit [or whatever]).

    Sharing is also a two-way street. Being the person who shares means you make the decision and we must respect our children’s choices when they are in the ownership role. On the other hand, when someone shares with *us*, we must respect their terms and their decision even if we don’t like or agree with it (and so must our children).

    Again, sharing must always be a voluntary act and when it is not then what is happening is not sharing–no matter what you choose to call it.

  2. What a lovely post! In my class, sharing looks a little bit different – everything belongs to the class, and if someone is using it, then it “belongs” to them until they put it back (or abandon it and start working with something else, but hopefully they’ll put it back first!). After that, it is available to *anyone* who wants to use it. I’ve noticed that this is one of the big things that parents worry about, and they always seem a little relieved that I don’t expect the children to be good at sharing or taking turns. I always remember that if a child is working purposefully with something (even if it’s not the purpose I would expect) they are learning from it – and that is something I always want to cultivate! Plus, since sharing isn’t a natural behavior for most 2-year-olds, it seems a little silly and counterproductive to try to force it :)
    I’ll be sharing this on my school’s facebook page!

  3. Pingback: Babies learn best on the floor & other parenting links

  4. Sharing is one of my pet peeves. Nevermind that I hear angry scolding ALLTHE TIME directed at toddlers too young to remotely understand the concept, it’s also evident that most adults simply don’t know what the word means. I have a 15 month old, he’s not even a little aggressive, but when he sees a kid playing with something, he, like most toddlers that age, will go up and try to take it. My preferred strategy is to just wait. Usually the other kid or toddler makes some kind of protest and jerks it away. Which seems reasonable to me. There’s no violence, and my kid gets a small lesson that his friends don’t want him to take things from them. And then mom steps in and says, “No! You have to SHARE!” And the whole thing ends with a very upset other kid who was just minding his own business until my kid came along and spoiled his day.

    First of all, last I checked, sharing does NOT mean givinging indiscriminately, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can take whatever you want. But mostly? Please don’t teach MY kid that when he takes something the adults will back him up.

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