Sharing is Overrated.


People make a huge deal about their kids sharing. At any given time at any given park you will hear a chorus of moms and dads yelling, “Honey, share with your sister,” “Lucy, can you let that other little boy use your shovel?” “Ian, give your friend some of your goldfish crackers!” We as a society are big on sharing. It seems that we find it to be a reflection of our own and our child’s good manners. I’m not immune to the pressure to make my children share but lately I’ve been wondering why we insist on forcing this issue when it clearly doesn’t come naturally.


My fourteen-month-old twins are already fighting over toys, attention and their fuh-fuh blankets (I know fuh-fuh is cloying but my friend Diana came up with the name for those little taggy blankets from Target. The real name is Chi-Chi which happens to be slang for boob in Spanish so I went with her on fuh-fuh). I’m pretty sure if left to their own devices my girls would fight to the death over a yogurt covered blueberry that fell on the floor. It’s a good thing I don’t keep any weaponry lying around the house or it would be like medieval times around here. The only person in this house who detests sharing more than the babies is Elby, their four-year-old sister. At the mere sight of one of her sisters grabbing for one of her toys, Elby reacts like she’s being mugged –which I guess she sort of is. “No Mattie,” she’ll scream, “That’s mine!” Of course my first reaction is to ask her to share but at the same time I sort of get it. I just have to put myself in her size nine light-up shoes to realize, sharing sucks. Why would I want to let anyone who comes in contact with something of mine have it? What if a friend of mine came into my office right now while I was writing this and just started grabbing my computer? I’d be pissed. So why do I expect my child to just hand over her prized possessions? And by prized possessions I mean anything she’s claimed ownership of in the span of her existence.


At my daughter’s preschool, if a child pees their pants and doesn’t have a spare pair of underwear, that child will be given a pair out of another kid’s backpack. How do I know this? Because Elby’s been on the receiving end of quite a few pairs of someone else’s Cinderella panties during the months after the babies were born and she had a few months of potty regression (read: a year). I wonder how I’d feel if someone at work broke a heel on their shoe and the boss just grabbed a pair of my Jimmy Choos and handed them over? I’ll never know because A) I don’t work in an office and B) I’ve never owned a pair of shoes that cost more than fifty bucks but still!


The more I think about it, the less natural sharing seems to be and the less apt I am to insist that my child do it against her will. There’s something so sweet about Elby’s face when she decides on her own to let Sadie hold one of the million stuffed animals on her bed or when she hands over a bite of her ice cream sandwich to Mattie after asking, “Can Mattie try some of my ice cream, mommy? It’s really yummy.”



This essay from the New Yorker absolutely nails it: If we were subjected to the same indignities as our kids, we wouldn't want to share either. (In fact, too often we don't...)


I couldn't have said it better! My daughter is only nine months but LOVES Olivia already (give me a break, I don't leave her in front of the TV all the time, it just happens to be on when I'm trying to get ready to leave the house!). I really havn't had to think of the sharing thing yet. Well, Olivia made a point that caught my attention. She got in trouble for not sharing with her brother. While serving her punishment, she daydreamed all day about her mother having to share her car or her home with random people. It seems very hypocritical that we enforce habits on our children that we ourselves would not enjoy being subjected too.

Robyn Knox

LOVE IT! I have had the same thoughts. I read a fabulous idea quite a few years back and has been extremely effective for the "sharing" discussion. Each child has a "MY STUFF list" with the understanding "No Touch/Play/Breathe On Unless checked in with thus said Owner." and the age of the child determines how many items are on the list. It empowers my kids to feel ownership and also helps them see that we are a family/team/unit not looking to frustrate one another and seeking to annoy brother or sister. Stephanie, thanks for the great laughs.


I think it is helpful to let you kids pick some toys that they don't want to share. If other kids are coming over these can be put away beforehand. If little siblings gran them, they will be returned to the original owner. I'm with you. Its perfectly OK not to share everything.


Sweet. I am so not going to correct Luci the next time she smacks Jack for taking her Mermaid doll. I'll just keep drinking and let them deal with it. Thanks for giving me an excuse to be a slacker mom yet again. :)
Love the article!


Love it!! If I am trying to raise self-assured, confident daughters, how is teaching them to be total push-overs that will let anyone walk up and grab their stuff gonna help? I read once that kids who take a stand about not sharing are actually showing signs of a healthy self esteem.


Oh Steph...
You need to post an article about toddler's who transition into babies again when we give them siblings. I had to laugh when you posted about Elby peeing her pants after you brought the twins home. I spent 2 good weeks potty training Nico before I went in to have Abbie and about three days after I came home, he started peeing in his pull-up's again!!!!!!!!! Now he wants to be "little" again so he can have a bubba "bottle" with his baby sister! WTF???? When does it end? When can I have my potty trained toddler back?


So honest, so true. My toddler doesn't yet know the conept of sharing. Slowly but surely she will but I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch if she doesn't share her stuff just cause Mommy tells her to. And if another parent gets ticked off at me I will just tell them to read this article!