We should teach our toddlers to share, right? This is something we all agree about. Or so I thought, until I saw this article, Stop Telling Your Toddler to Share! What the -- no sharing? (And was that exclamation point really necessary?) I've gotta hear this one. What, it teaches them to be passive and let other kids walk all over them?
Nope, that's not it at all. Child development specialists say that your child is almost -- but not quite -- ready to share. And if the whole point of teaching your kids to share is to teach them to care about other people, no worries there. Your toddler already knows a lot more about being good social actors than you realize.
Apparently they're in a "prosocial" stage where they're understanding how to care about other people. And they can show you they get it by helping you. If you ask a toddler to help you with a specific task, or to cooperate with others, they will usually do so happily. (Results may vary.)
It’s true that toddlers are not especially altruistic. They don’t want to give up their toy to another kid in the sandbox. But adults don’t like to give up their toys either. And when the task is less monumental—when cooperation or assistance is required, rather than sacrifice—toddlers are far more willing to help. Altruism is the most demanding sort of prosocial behavior. When we scold toddlers for not sharing their toys, and then think of them as antisocial monsters, we’re grading them as harshly as possibly.
Okay, so if "help Mommy put away the toys" is long division, then sharing is calculus, right? And... some of us still haven't mastered sharing as adults. Do you like letting just anyone use your car? Is it okay if your husband has sex with the lady next door? See what I mean? A lot of the time, sharing makes no sense at all. Plus, you don't even have to teach them explicity about sharing because they already get it. The article even says it can be counterproductive to make your toddler share.
That all makes sense in theory. But could you ever actually act on this information? First of all, there's a lot of social pressure from other parents to teach your toddlers to share. Good luck acting against that.
And it just feels weird not to urge your toddler to share. It feel like you're being negligent in your duties. It's hard not to shake the feeling that you're potentially raising a total sociopath.
Would you still feel comfortable and responsible as a parent if you stopped telling your toddler to share?