Monday, August 4, 2014

Why I DO teach my son to share

There is an article that has been going around the interwebs over the last couple weeks that has been quite the buzz among the mommy world.  The woman grabs your attention with the headline "Why I don't make my son share" and then hooks you with a few seemingly valid points about preparing your kids for the disappointment and reality of life.  What really concerns me is how many parents are actually jumping on board with this philosophy after reading her blog post.

Like I said, she makes some good arguments; namely, that you can't just have everything you want in life simply because you showed up (or simply because you want it).  However, doesn't it seem like teaching your kids that they don't have to do anything if they don't want to is a far more dangerous lesson?

When you give your kid a time limit with a certain toy, because you see that other children are waiting for it, both kids are learning that important lesson of "disappointment in life"-- the kid who is playing with the toy knows that there is an end to his fun in the very near future, and the kid who wants the toy is learning that he is going to have to wait a few minutes until the other person's turn is up, even though he wants it right now.  More importantly, both kids are learning what it means to be a good friend and a good person.  Isn't that the most crucial thing that we can teach young children?

Kids are inherently selfish.  It's not their fault, or anyone's; it's just the way they see the world for a little while.  It's your job, as a parent, to teach them that they are NOT the most important person in the world; that it is important to take other people's feelings into consideration and that being kind to others is what makes us the special human beings that we are.  Otherwise, they will quickly learn that in real life, if you don't play fair, you are either going to get your butt kicked or not have any friends.

I also have trouble grasping this woman's version of "reality."  In my reality, you can't reserve the monkey bars or a swing at a park, the way you can in her reality.  In my reality, if I told another mom: "I'm sorry, these monkey bars are being saved for my son who just jumped off for a second; he is using the bathroom right now and he wants to swing on them when he gets back", I'm guessing she would either burst out laughing or fight the urge to punch me in the face.

In the blogger's reality, this no-sharing philosophy is preparing kids for the fact that they aren't going to get a promotion just because they go to work on time every day...  great, but that reality is about 18 years down the road for her son.  How about preparing him for a reality that he might face in the next six months?  Like when he goes on a carousel ride and has decided that he isn't ready to get off once it's over.  Her philosophy won't work out so well when it is required that everyone exit the ride and let the people waiting in line have a turn.  I imagine that her son will also have a hard time understanding why he is allowed to stay on in certain places but not in others.

There were two specific examples she gave, to defend her point, that really bothered me.  She first tells the story of her friend's toddler son bringing a toy car to the park and another mom insisting that the little boy share it with her son.  Ok, well I think we can all agree that the other mom, in that instance, was completely out of line.  That is certainly the exception and not the norm of how most moms would act, so I hope that I am not thrown into that same category of crazy simply because I make my son share.

The other example was a time that her son was at a public kids gym and wanted to play on a particular ride-on toy for the entire hour and a half of open play.  She watched another mom approach the boy after he had been on it for a while and ask if her son could have a turn; the boy ignored her and continued to ignore her every subsequent time she asked (blogger mom never stepped in).  The real problem here, aside from the fact that her son thinks it is perfectly ok to highjack a toy in a public place for over an hour, is that this woman seems to relish in the fact that her son is completely ignoring an adult who is asking him to do something.

Teaching your kids respect for authority is something that I would consider very important for real life in both the educational and working worlds that lie ahead.  Ignoring your teachers/ bosses when you don't want to do what they've asked is certainly not going to get you very far in life.  Of course, it is important to teach children to stand up for themselves when an adult is asking them to do something inappropriate, but that was clearly not the case here.

I just have to believe that in the long run, which is what this woman seems to be concerned about, the person who learned to share, think of others, and exhibit kindness often as a child is going to get so much more out of life than the child who was taught that other people don't matter and that he doesn't ever have to compromise his own happiness.

Please teach your children to share.