Sharing is a hot button issue these days! Less than a month ago every mom page and mom group I follow on Facebook was sharing and talking about Alayna Kolberg’s viral PSA about her son not having to share.

I do believe sharing is a necessary skill to teach our kids, however it is important to recognize that there are two types of sharing: there is sharing personal items and there is sharing general items. Furthermore, I think Kolberg brings up great points about sharing and the etiquette involved in sharing.  Let me explain.

Kolberg’s post appears to be about sharing personal items. Her son brought toys to the park (that he intended to share with a friend who was joining him at the park) and when he arrived, several other children asked to play with his toys. He said no, the kids told their moms and the other moms gave Kolberg a dirty look when she allowed this behavior from her son.  In this scenario, I agree with Kolberg.

However, after reading Kolberg’s “PSA” I felt there was a disconnect on the topic of sharing etiquette. Kolberg sounded irritated that other children even asked to play with her son’s toys, but just as it is okay for her son to bring toys to the park, it is okay for other children to ask to play with them. It also okay for her son to say no. As parents, it is important to teach your Lil’ to accept that people do not always want to share their things. As adults, we certainly are not expected to share all our personal belongings. When I go to the doctor’s office and sit in the waiting room, I do not expect to share my phone with someone who didn’t bring theirs so they can play Candy Crush.

Kolberg also mentioned that in the past her son has shared with other children, but learned they didn’t really want to share; they wanted to take his toys and play without him. This is the aspect of sharing etiquette I think we forget most. When your child is playing with someone else’s toy, encourage them to play with the child who shared. The child who shared is likely excited about playing with their toy AND a new friend. That is the benefit of sharing! When a child takes a shared toy and plays without the owner, that’s not sharing, that’s borrowing. Again, as adults we do this. In my workout group when a new person joins and they don’t have weights I offer to share my extra set because this person is joining my group and I want to make friends, but I don’t share my extra weights with the random girl at the park who decided she wants to do a weighted walk.

As I said before there are two kinds of sharing. Personal sharing which we just talked about and general sharing. What I mean by general sharing is sharing public property and community property. We teach our children to share the playground and take turns because a public playground is intended for all children to use. This idea will prepare them for school when the teacher has supplies that belong to the class. Your Lil’ will need to respect the fact that all the classroom items don’t belong to her and she has to share or take turns. Again, this is a skill adults need too. Think about when you had your first roommate. There were parts of your apartment or house that were shared spaces and you likely shared a fridge and a kitchen. At work, adults are expected to share supplies, cubicles, and workspaces like conference rooms. Being able to share community items is a necessary skill.

In essence, sharing like any other life skill is about balance. Children should learn to share personal items because it allows them to make friends, but they are allowed to pick and choose when and who they want to share with.

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