It’s been brought to my attention (mainly via social media articles) that there is a parenting movement where their children aren’t taught and/or encouraged to share. Is it wrong that I immediately envision the product of that lifestyle leading to a population of tightly wound entitled little asshats? It sounds peculiar and wrong to me, so I decided to scope out these articles and try to make sense of the new philosophies.
One thing I can appreciate about the millennial generation is that they teach us to challenge and question our own traditions. Gender stereotypes aren’t harshly divided anymore. We teach the value of consent with our bodies now more than ever. Not as many of us have circumcised our boys because we haven’t uncovered enough reasons to do so outside of following what our ancestors did.
The articles that argue why we shouldn’t teach our children to share make some valid points, but I just don’t buy into them. Still, I’m moved to teach my kids to share what they have because it just feels right to me.
Sharing an object with a never-before-seen other child doesn’t pose as a real-world scenario in many parents’ eyes. The “real world” is filled with lots of assholes, but that doesn’t mean that I’m grooming my children to add to the asshole population, either. I want to teach them to be compassionate people.
Once, at a playgroup, a baby crawled right up to my toddler and took a toy away from her. My daughter reacted with screaming toddler obscenities. The air grew tense and all parents’ eyes were on me. “It’s okay,” I said to my daughter. “The little ones are still learning about sharing,” I said to her. It was the best reaction I could think of on the spot. I stand by it, but I also am prepared to expect that not all parents will appreciate hearing it.
Another time, when playing at the library, my son and another boy were fighting over a toy. As I was about to lean in and give some encouraging words and label a few emotions at play, the other mother waved me off with an air of superiority and told me to let them work it out.
After having one easy kid who has learned to compose himself and after probably reading a couple of parenting books, she appeared to believe that she possessed the divine parenting skills required to inspire child-rearing perfection. That’s fine. When she has her second who slaps and doesn’t like to nap, I hope she isn’t moved to screaming into her bath towel. I let her alpha the moment, because quite frankly, any scenario that comes out of that tussle is an example of real life.
Sometimes I hover and sometimes I give space. I pick my moments. I find less consistency in my parenting than I predicted, because factors are forever and ever changing. But, the bottom line is that I try to inspire compassion even if my level of intervening varies. And if my kid socializes like an asshole, I make effort to step in a little harder the next time.
If you were to be standing at the train station, wearing your headphones and bobbing along to some of your favorite tunes while your eyes stay fixed on the tracks, you might be alarmed if someone tapped you on the shoulder from behind. If they asked to borrow your headphones and have a listen, would you share? No, because it’s fucking weird! Or maybe you do, reluctantly, because you haven’t yet figured out how to handle weird. But, the whole experience gives you a funny taste in your mouth, regardless.
Now, imagine that you’re at a sports bar sharing a basket of cheese curds with your friends (okay, you got me—I’m from Wisconsin) and playing a round of darts. If someone unknown to you approaches you and asks that you share your cheese curds with them, it’s totally creepy, right? But, what if they ask to use the dart board when you’re done? Well, that, you grant them. And if you don’t, you’re a selfish dick and word will get around.
There’s a difference between the aforementioned sharing requests, and I don’t expect a two-year-old to recognize it.
The “share everything” mindset we develop during early childhood becomes obsolete in adulthood. When children enter this world, they are equipped with childish ids (thank you, undergrad psych classes) and selfish agendas as a means of survival. They want what they want and screw everybody else. Their parents and caretakers lovingly provide for them, assure them, and guide them to think of the interest of others.
The new mindset that I try to pass on to my children beyond the sharing stage is to think of others with as much regard as they think about themselves. The most organic way to break them of their insistence on fulfilling their own needs is to guide them through their sharing opportunities at a young age, no matter how painful. It shapes their very core to make compassion their new instinct.
Kids are a lot more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for. We constantly cycle through life on a journey of learning, unlearning, and learning how to generalize the information (thank you, graduate-level behavior classes) we receive appropriately in relevant situations. First, we learn to say hello to everyone. Then, we’re taught to never talk to strangers. First, we are taught to be polite to everyone. Then, we’re taught to stand up for ourselves. First, we are taught that letters and numbers are two separate entities. Then, we learn algebra.
So, I’m going to be over here, teaching my kids to share. And if I see you over there, empowering your kids not to share, I’ll hear you loud and clear. I see you, I hear you, even if I don’t agree with you. I’ll do me, and you do you.
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