This Is the Problem With Always Forcing Kids to Share

children playing with toy blocks
iStock.com/skynesher

As a mother of toddlers, I try my best to teach them manners and to be kind people. And, like many other moms and dads, I teach them to share because it will make them more compassionate and lovable people ... However, that does not mean my children are automatically required to hand something over to someone just because it's demanded (unless, of course, we're talking about the law). And this is why I'm so thankful for mom Alanya Kolberg's post about why her child isn't required to share, which should be required reading material for parents everywhere.

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Kolberg's thought-provoking Facebook post about her young son, Carson, being approached by at least six children -- all at once -- during a recent playground visit makes it understandable why this little boy was timid about passing his toys around. As Kolberg notes, Carson was "visibly overwhelmed" and looked to his mama for support.

"You can tell them no, Carson," Kolberg recalls telling her son in her Facebook post. "Just say no. You don't have to say anything else."

More from CafeMom: Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Well, that "No" turned into the kids asking Alanya for the toys (spoiler alert: she said her son didn't have to share with them), which led to what the mom calls "dirty looks from other parents" who likely thought Alanya and Carson were being extremely rude and inconsiderate by not sharing.

As it turns out, little Carson brought his toys to share with the daughter of one of his mom's friends, both of whom they were meeting at the park.

So, he did, in fact, share. He just didn't give up his things to every child who asked, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Alanya Kolberg's son Carson
Alanya Kolberg/Facebook

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When I first saw Alanya's Facebook post, and its "MY CHILD IS NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE WITH YOURS" intro, I made an a** of myself, as I assumed things were about to go south.

... But then I read the post, and it gave me pause.

As I thought about my children and teaching them to share, I couldn't help but wonder whether or not I'm planting seeds of entitlement that might make my boys think someone has to give or do something for them simply because they asked -- and I found myself agreeing with this mom.

"Here's the thing, though," Kolberg writes on Facebook. "If I, an adult, walked into the park eating a sandwich, am I required to share my sandwich with strangers in the park? No!" She continues:

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?

Well, how about them apples?

More from CafeMom: How to Help Your Child Learn to Share When She's Just Not Feeling It

There have been numerous times when my 3- and almost 2-year-old boys have seen another kid with a toy at the playground and wanted to have it. No matter how hard they kicked, screamed, or pleaded, I've always reminded them it's not their toy, and I've never thought the child who said no was being rude. (Who knows if the child is simply having a bad day, has a special need, or has a problem sharing things with people he or she doesn't know?)

It would be one thing if a child wasn't sharing public property -- like a swing or slide -- but it's a completely different story if my kids want to use someone else's personal item. Because, at the end of the day, that child doesn't have to share said item.

"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 mom adds in her Facebook post.

Yup, that makes sense to me.

More from CafeMom: Your Toddler Refuses to Share? What Should You Do

Alanya's post also made me think about boundaries and the importance of having them and encouraging my kids to find theirs.

"The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults," she writes in her post. "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."

Whether you bring toys to the playground for other kids to use or only bring enough items to get your child out of the house, we should all work to be a little more understanding and not let something like a toy make or break our children's experience at a playground.

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