I recently came across an article on PopSugar called “Should You Teach Your Kids to Share”. In the article, author Beth W articulates that she doesn’t teach her son to share because the act of sharing teaches children 1) that they can have something that belongs to someone else, and 2) that they can act without regards of others. While I think Beth W has some good points, her article only shows one side of the story…Let me show the other side.
The Evolution of Sharing
From an evolutionary standpoint, the prosocial act of sharing and cooperation has helped various species survive throughout times. Human beings are social animals; we share food, resources, and knowledge for support and protection. If the caveperson who discovered fire didn’t share the knowledge, the human race would probably have died from cold weather or food-borne diseases.
Sharing in the Modern Times
In our modern world, sharing is equally important. Until we solve the problem of inequality and poverty, many charities and activists still need donations from the “haves” to help the “have nots”. When we teach kids not to share, teaching them that helping those in need is not important.
Sharing is also crucial to our cultural growth. For centuries, we have been sharing ideas and knowledge so that our arts can be more vibrant and our technology can be more advanced. If our kids guard their ideas so tightly, they will inadvertently limit their own world.
Sharing in the Work Place
On a micro-level standpoint, sharing is an essential part of our day-to-day work life. I am a therapist in a community health agency, and everyday my colleagues and I rely on each other’s support to provide good care to our clients. Often times I need to leverage resources from another department to help my clients. I don’t speak Spanish, and it would be difficult for me to work with a Spanish-speaking client if I cannot “borrow” a Spanish translator from another department.
What to Teach Kids About Sharing
I agree with Beth W’s article that there are downsides to sharing, but teaching kids not to share has its pitfalls. So how should we teach our kids about sharing? I believe the process needs to be fluid because I don’t think the all-or-nothing approach works well in our dynamic world. We will need to set some guidelines about sharing when it comes to our own belongings and public belongings (ie. school, parks and rec centers). We can teach our kids the positive aspect of sharing and encourage this prosocial behavior, while teaching them that they have a choice whether to share or not.
I believe we can teach our kids about coping with disappointment and making good choices in sharing at the same time.
Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.
Image Source: Babysitting Academy