The title of my book makes people flinch. I know it’s jarring. It’s OK Not to Share goes against one of the parenting notions we hold most dear.
Even I cringe a bit when I scan the table of contents. Twenty-nine rules stare back at me — each one negating another well-loved parenting standard. But these renegade ideas are based in solid child development combined with new insights from advancing brain research. They may seem backwards at first, but they’re what kids actually need.
Of course, it does take some explaining.
Take sharing. Who hasn’t said “Be nice and share your toys?” From the earliest age, we want our children to be generous. The trouble is, we’re going about it all wrong.
Think how a typical sharing situation unfolds among the preschool crowd. One child’s busy playing and another kid comes up and wants the toy. “Give Jack the truck,” we say. “You’ve had it a long time.” We invoke sharing when we should invoke waiting.
Traditional sharing is forced. It trains children to give up something the instant someone else demands. It doesn’t feel good. And kids won’t do it when adults aren’t watching. What’s more, we don’t follow these rules ourselves. Picture yourself using the computer to read a news story. Suddenly someone takes the keyboard and starts typing. Do you get mad? We expect our friends to wait their turn before grabbing something. We don’t like to be interrupted. But when we’re done, we’ll gladly share. The same turn-taking idea should apply to kids: waiting until a child is “all done.”
Of course, waiting for a turn is hard — it may involve tears and foot stomping — but all the more reason to practice. Impulse control (waiting for a toy and not grabbing) is a vital part of brain development and gets stronger through practice. Teach a child to say “Yes, you can have it when I’m done.” When she drops the toy and moves on, help her think of others by saying, “Remember, Jack is waiting.” Kids will learn courtesy, positive assertiveness, and the inner warmth of true generosity. The waiting child gains a terrific lesson in delayed gratification and the original child learns how good it feels to share.
Like sharing, many of the parenting ideas we cherish persist because we look through adult lenses. When we see kids invent a game of super-blaster bombs we worry about school violence and real armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. When we watch two children reject a third child, saying “you can’t play” we worry about kindness and morality. When we hear a child scream “I hate you!” we believe him. All this is jumping to conclusions, often political, adult conclusions. Children have different needs from ours. It’s up to us to understand what’s age-appropriate.
Wow! Beautifully said! In the rest of her articles she goes on to share the 10 rules and a little explanation of each them. I think the most important take-away from this article is about the danger of super-imposing our adult perspective. I also appreciate how she touches on the developmental process of growing up and things like waiting turns takes patience and practice. Practicing patience helps with brain development. Please read the rest of this and consider going renegade with your children….