Learning to share, even when it’s hard, is a basic skill to teach your children, right? One mom thinks otherwise, and the Internet is going crazy over it.
When Alanya Kolberg of Springfield, Missouri, took her son, Carson, to the park, at least six other boys rushed at him, asking him to share his toys. As they grabbed at the Transformer, truck, and Minecraft figure, Kolberg told her overwhelmed son that he could say no, she explains in a Facebook post.
MY CHILD IS NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE WITH YOURS.As soon as we walked in the park, Carson was approached by at least 6…
The other boys looked to Kolberg, appalled that her son wouldn’t share. But she told them that if he wanted to share, he would.
Kolberg asks anyone shocked at her response to take a different perspective. “Whose manners are lacking here?” she writes. “The person reluctant to give his 3 toys away to 6 strangers, or the 6 strangers demanding to be given something that doesn’t belong to them, even when the owner is obviously uncomfortable?”
But the mom wasn’t punishing other kids for being demanding. Instead, she wanted to teach Carson how to stand up for himself—not just when he’s being bullied, but when he feels in over his head. (Teaching your little one these forgotten manners is also just as important.) “The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults,” she writes. “While I do know some adults who clearly never learned how to share as children, I know far more who don’t know how to say no to people, or how to set boundaries, or how to practice self-care. Myself included.”
After all, Carson does share—just not with everyone all the time. In fact, he’d brought the toys so he could surprise another friend with them, Kolberg writes.
Most commenters praised the mom for teaching her child to stand up for himself.
“I applaud you being a present parent, and for instilling your values in your children, for letting them know that you support their decisions, and that you have their backs,” wrote one commenter.
“She isn’t teaching her child not to share, she’s teaching her child comfortability, discretion and control,” wrote another. “It’s not an obligation to share with strangers. Break the ice first, most children will willingly share when they feel comfortable and ready.”
Not everyone was so quick to agree though.
“Children already know how to say no,” wrote another commenter. “We have to teach our kids that giving to others that don’t have [the same] is important.”
Learning the balance between setting boundaries and practicing generosity is key, says psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, co-author of Growing Friendships: A Kid’s Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. “Don’t be mad at kids for asking! They’re allowed to ask,” she says. “It’s up to you to decide what you are or aren’t comfortable doing. It’s not their job to figure out your boundaries.” Kids don’t need to give something away just because another child asks, but they also should learn not to flaunt their possessions, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore.
While it’s totally OK not to share everything, Dr. Kennedy-Moore suggests avoiding conflicts by removing temptation. For instance, if your kids have a particularly precious toy, have them put it away before playdates and leave out playthings they don’t mind other kids using. If your children are uncomfortable sharing when asked, it helps to follow up with a reason, she says. For instance, your kids could explain, “I don’t want it to break,” “I only have one,” or “I don’t want you to touch it, but I’ll let you look.”
If you are afraid your kid turning into a pushover, try role-playing to practice saying no. “Tell your child sometimes it’s necessary to say no more than once to get the message across,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore.