A child’s etiquette of sharing
by Tamara El-Rahi | April 28, 2017
Now that my daughter is crawling all over the place, I have come across a new issue: the etiquette of dealing with other parents and their little ones. The main place that this occurs is in the baby room where I go to mass, where there is plenty of space for Emma to crawl around – and plenty of room for other kids and their families.
Emma is a very friendly child, and so she tends to approach other kids straightaway. She might try and play with them and their toys; they might try to play with hers. So what is permissible and what isn’t? Do I pull her away from strangers immediately or remove her toys from other kids? Do I let her run wild or let other kids upset her?
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and so a recent article sparked my interest. Titled Mum’s stern reminder: “My child is not required to share with yours!”, it talks about a viral Facebook post by a mother. Her post read as follows:
MY CHILD IS NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE WITH YOURS.
As soon as we walked in the park, Carson was approached by at least 6 boys, all at once demanding that he share his transformer, Minecraft figure, and truck. He was visibly overwhelmed and clutched them to his chest as the boys reached for them. He looked at me.
"You can tell them no, Carson," I said. "Just say no. You don't have to say anything else."
Of course, as soon as he said no, the boys ran to tattle to me that he was not sharing. I said, "He doesn't have to share with you. He said no. If he wants to share, he will."
That got me some dirty looks from other parents. Here is the thing though:
If I, an adult, walked into the park eating a sandwich, am I required to share my sandwich with strangers in the park? No!
Would any well-mannered adult, a stranger, reach out to help themselves to my sandwich, and get huffy if I pulled it away? No again.
So really, while you're giving me dirty looks, presumably thinking my son and I are rude, whose manners are lacking here? The person reluctant to give his 3 toys away to 6 strangers, or the 6 strangers demanding to be given something that doesn't belong to them, even when the owner is obviously uncomfortable?
The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults. While I do know some adults who clearly never learned how to share as children, I know far more who don't know how to say no to people, or how to set boundaries, or how to practice self-care. Myself included.
In any case, Carson only brought the toys to share with my friend's little girl, who we were meeting at the park. He only didn't want to share with the greedy boys because he was excited to surprise her with them.
The next time your snowflake runs to you, upset that another child isn't sharing, please remember that we don't live in a world where it's conducive to give up everything you have to anyone just because they said so, and I'm not going to teach my kid that that's the way it works.
This is an interesting one. The comments on this article had a bit of both perspectives – what I thought was a surprising number who agreed with this mum; as well as others who disagreed and had a view of ‘we need more kindness in the world'.
I feel like I can see where this particular mum is coming from – she is trying to teach her son not to let other people walk all over him. And yet I wouldn’t act the same at all. Personally, I try to tread a sort of middle ground - I smile at the parents to gauge how comfortable they are with my child approaching theirs, and go from there. If Emma looks like she’s about to break someone else’s toy or is being too intense, I will bring her back to me. And I am quite happy for other kids to play with her and her toys.
I think that what I am teaching her is how to have kind and pleasant interactions with others. I don’t want her to look at all new people in a negative light from the get-go! When she is older and at the age of reason, I am sure we will have many conversations about stranger danger or standing up for herself. But at this point, where she is learning on a more immersive level and where I am always there to supervise, I think that teaching sharing, openness and friendliness can only be a good thing.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with this Facebook mum? How do you deal with other mums and bubs?