My Anti-Sharing Policy

I’m sure you have all experienced it. Child one is playing with a toy. Child two wants to play with the toy.  Child one is told to “share”, and is expected to give child two the toy. Tears and chaos is usually the outcome. Have you ever stopped to think how child one may feel about this?

Let’s use a slightly different scenario. 

You (as an adult) are using your phone. Maybe you’re checking an e-mail, perhaps scrolling through Facebook. I come over and say I want to use your phone. Another adult comes over and  tells you “you need share, it’s Danielle’s turn now” then takes your phone, and gives it to me. Pretty sure you would have a look like this on your face:

And rightly so. Why on earth would you give me your phone that you are using? It’s cray-cray, right?? Yet, we expect children to do this All. The. Time.

We have to think, is it really appropriate for us to force children? Before getting my degree in early childhood education, I wouldn’t have thought twice about sharing.  I didn’t see an issue with it. After some studying, however, I realized just how hard  sharing is for young children.  To really understand sharing a child has to have an understanding of empathy, which usually doesn’t surface until close to age six.  Young children are egocentric (I’m sure I didn’t have tell you that), and they really don’t take into account another person’s feelings.  It’s not because they are mean, or uncaring individuals, it’s just not where they are developmentally (which is also why it is hard for them to apologize).

So, what’s a mom (or teacher) to do when a toy is being fought over?  I can tell you what I did when teaching three year old preschool, and it worked well. If Jimmy was playing with a toy and Jane wanted to play with it I didn’t tell Jimmy he needed to share. Instead I told Jimmy “Jane would like to play with the toy you have. When you are done with it, would you please give it her”? And you know what? Nine times out of ten (ok, maybe closer to eight times) Jimmy would give the toy to Jane within five minutes.  Not only does Jimmy get to finish playing (super important in early childhood) but Jane learns how to wait, a super important skill.

Now I’m not saying this results in sunshine and rainbows. My youngest (15 months) pretty much wants to play with all of her sister’s (4 years old) toys and vice-versa. There are many  tears when I don’t enforce “sharing”.  But, it’s a lesson I think is important, so I stick with it.

Luckily my “anti-sharing” philosophy is one that is shared (pun intended) by many of my mom friends. We do cross into murky waters when we go to play dates at places like the library, where there are lots of kids, and lots of different ideas of how kids should play.  I try to stand back and let my daughters do their thing.  Sometimes my daughter wants to play with a toy that another child it using. I simply remind her that she can ask so play with it when they are done. You know what, sometimes the child plays with the toy most of the time, and my daughter doesn’t get a chance. It’s tough, but if my daughter was having fun with a toy, I wouldn’t want her time interrupted.

So where do you fall on the sharing spectrum?


  1. I think that’s a great way to approach it – the child isn’t forced to turn over their toy, but they still learn about turn taking and helping another child who is upset. I seem to remember doing that sometimes with my kids too.

  2. I think as members of society there are certain things that children need to be taught to share. If it’s your own toy, then by all means don’t share it. However, if you’re using the swing at the park, it’s not acceptable to use it for an hour while children stand in line. So, no as an adult, you don’t not have the right to MY phone but if it’s the shared phone at work then we need to figure out how to share.

    • I think a lot of it also depends on the child’s age. Young children really don’t get sharing. Even in public if a child is really into a toy, I try not to step in and say “share”. If my child is using something another kid wants, I may talk to her about how another child wants a toy, but I don’t expect her to give it up. Just like if another child is playing with a toy she wants, I tell her she has to wait for that kid to be done with it.

  3. Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY agree wit you! This is how I am also! Learning to share is fantastic, and that’s one thing, being forced to give up something of yours because of the whim of somebody else is a completely different matter.

    • Sharing is something that is so tough! The older you are the more you understand, but even out at playdates at the library it can still be tough (and I am still in the camp of you can play with the toy until you are finished).


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