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To share or not to share?

Moral Dilemma: Your child has a packet of sweets. Another child comes up and asks if he/she can have a sweet. Do you encourage your child to share, or not to share?

In the past, the answer would have been simple: share. Recently, however, there’s been a new line of thought encouraging children not to share. What’s the argument against sharing, and is there merit to this perspective? Keep reading to find out more.

Don’t share

1. SHARE SELECTIVELY ONLY Children should have the choice to share what they want, and what they don’t. Why should they share everything? As adults, we don’t share everything.

2. FORCED SHARING AIN’T SHARING. Learning to share is a lesson best taught by experience, not by force. Through force, children wouldn’t learn the lesson of “sharing”, they’d learn the lesson of being resentful every time they shared. This defeats the purpose of sharing – all it teaches them is to be bitter when they see authority figures. It’s the parent or the authority figure who shares at the end of the day, not the child.

3. DEMANDING IS NOT SHARING. We’re teaching other children that they can get an item from another child just by demanding it. Is it truly a child’s right to have everything shared with them?

4. LIFE LESSON = WE DON’T ALWAYS GET WHAT WE WANT. Allowing kids to not share allows the individual who suffers the rejection to learn that in life, we don’t necessarily always get what we want. We can ask for it, but if the other individual is unwilling to share, pushing them any further is simply a demand.

5. VALUE OF SHARED ITEM DIFFERS. Everyone places a different value on items. While one may place an immense value on a cat toy, another may find it insignificant. You might love your Ferrari car, but another might value his/her rusty Toyota filled with good memories more – you might not know it.


1. TO MAKE AND KEEP FRIENDS. Human beings do not live in isolation. Sharing, while it may start of physically, teaches kids how to build relationships. Later on, sharing can be transferred to non-tangible things, and be the basis for emotional intimacy.

2. TEACHES THEM HOW TO TAKE TURNS. Eventually, when children enter school, they’re mingling with a large crowd. To make sure that everyone’s treated fairly, often children have to take turns. Why not learn that now?

3. PATIENCE. It teaches them to wait patiently – we don’t always get to hog what we strongly desire all the time.

4. LEARN TO BE GENEROUS. If you have something wonderful, when you share it with someone else, ideally it increases your happiness – because you are adding joy to someone else’s life.

5. LEARN ABOUT CARING FOR OTHERS. When child A shares with child B, in an ideal scenario, child A tunes into child B’s feelings, empathizes with the other child, and therefore shares. Child A can now better empathize with others, and thereby show care and consideration for the community.

From an adult’s perspective, these arguments make sense. However, it’s important to remember that children don’t always think like adults – children, at a younger age are motivated by punishment and reward. Is teaching to not share the way forward?

Kyle Pruett, M.D. a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine addresses this issue in his article. While sharing is advised, he suggests a couple of guidelines that may help correct the issues brought up by the non-sharing debate:

- Ensure that the item to be shared is not highly valuable to the child.

- Prevent disciplining your child when he/she is being stingy by labelling such behaviour as “selfish”. This helps prevent children absorbing the concept of “sharing” as one that is resentful.

- Children don’t have to share everything, so during a playdate, ensure that items that do not need to be shared are stored away. This provides children with some control over what will happen to their stuff.

As a parent, do you agree? What are your views on sharing/not sharing?


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