Why I will Teach My Child to Share
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
There is a hot topic on motherhood and parenting blogs that has been brought to my attention by quite a few moms: Teaching your child to share or teaching your child not to share. This caught me off guard. While growing up, sharing was an expectation. I was expected to share with others; and, at the young age of 14 months, my daughter is learning the importance of sharing. There is an article floating around the internet called “9 Reasons Why I Won’t Make My Kids Share.”
It goes over the mom’s reasons for deciding not to teach her child how to share. At the core of this article, I feel the mom’s desire is to help her children set healthy boundaries towards other people, HOWEVER, I disagree with her approach.
So, here we go… Here are a few reasons I will teach my daughter to share and the research behind the benefits of teaching children to share:
1. Teaching a Child to share teaches the Prosocial Behaviors. – C. Daniel Batson defines prosocial behavior as “a broad range of actions intended to benefit one or more people other than oneself - behaviors such as helping, comforting, sharing and cooperation” (n.d.). During infancy and early toddlerhood, children rely on parents to function within social behaviors. At a young age, children observe and start to internalize rules and social expectations. By Preschool age, (2 years -4 years) Children show a commitment to parental rules and compliance to the expectations set forth. This means, if sharing is encouraged and taught at a young age, the child is likely to internalize this and sharing produce behavior, (Kochanska et al. 2001).
Prosocial behavior as “a broad range of actions intended to benefit one or more people other than oneself - behaviors such as helping, comforting, sharing and cooperation.” - C. Daniel Batson
2. It helps a child develop the ability to self-regulate emotions. The ability to self-regulate emotions is something that adults often struggle with, so why not get a jump start on this? Teaching Addie about sharing goes both ways. I want her to know the importance of sharing with others. I also want her to know that others will choose to share or not to share with her and that it is out of her control. She will learn patience – as she waits for a toy to be shared, or she will learn how to deal with the disappointment of not being able to play with the toy. Studies show that children who are able to self-regulate report feeling less anxious than their peers who do not know how to self regulate, (Berkel et al., 2015).
3. Sharing teaches empathy. The ability to empathize, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they are feeling is a vital skill in becoming a well-rounded human being. I want Addie to learn how to empathize with others at an early age. I want her to be able to put herself in the shoes of the child who asks her to share. Being empathetic creates the ability to connect and relate to others, deepening friendships throughout life. Who doesn’t want that for their child?
4. Sharing empowers children. Making the choice to share can be a tough decision. I know that I struggle with sharing sometimes. I want Addie to understand that choosing to share can be very rewarding. Choosing to share with others creates a desire to give to others. 1 Timothy touches on the sharing with others to glorify God, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
5. Sharing is the foundation for stewardship. Nothing we have is our own. Everything on Earth belongs to God, and we are simply caretakers of the blessings we are entrusted with. We are teaching Addie that gifts we are given are meant to be used to glorify God. Luke 3:11 says, “John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’” In sharing, Addie has a unique opportunity to honor God with her actions. God calls us to give generously to others. I want Addie to know that giving is something God calls us to do and that in doing so, she is serving God and following his commands.
"Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same." - Luke 3:11
In reality, Addie isn’t going to share at every opportunity she has. She may even protest when I ask her to share, but it is my responsibility to teach her how to be a caring, responsible, God-serving person. As her parent, God has entrusted me with raising her. This is a responsibility I take very seriously. When I doubt whether a lesson is worth teaching to Addie, I turn to the Bible (and my Psych journals) to see what God expects from us as his children.
I would love to know your thoughts on this subject! It is a HOT topic and I know many moms on both sides of the argument who are very passionate about their opinions. What did you do with your kids? What are you doing currently? What do you hope to do?
Comment below and let me know!
Batson, C.D. (n.d.) Altruism and prosocial behavior. In G. Lindzey, D. Gilbert, & S.T. Fiske, The Handbook of Social Psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.
Berkel, S., Groeneveld, M., Mesman, J. m., Endendijk, J., Hallers-Haalboom, E., Pol, L., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. (2015). Parental Sensitivity Towards Toddlers and Infant Siblings Predicting Toddler Sharing and Compliance. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 24(8), 2270-2279.
Kochanska, G., Coy, K. C., & Murray, K. T. (2001). The development of self-regulation in the first four years of life. Child Development, 72, 1091–1111. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00336.
Luke 3:11 ESV
1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV