I recently watched a video on youtube about children sharing (I’ll pop it at the end of this post) which made me think that this post which I wrote about sharing a while ago could do with a rewrite. Hope you enjoy it, as always comments are welcome.
This week I want to talk about sharing. To be honest there are some things about the concept which baffle me. For starters I can have a group of friends round and slice a cake up share it. Alternatively a child can be playing with a toy car and in allowing another child to take a turn they share. We can also share an activity, we can share interests or share a common ancestor. Basically we can apply the word ‘share’ to a whole host of different activities and it’s this that confuses me. For me the cake sharing is the closest thing to ‘real’ sharing that I can think of since all parties walk away equally satisfied but when it comes to teaching my sons about sharing toys this causes problems. I associate sharing with an evenly divided resource and I’m not sure if this is the consensus.
Here’s an example of how tricky the concept can be to explain: Logan is playing with some figures on the floor and his little brother comes over and picks up a toy which Logan is currently not holding. From Alexander’s (my youngest’s) perspective he hasn’t snatched (which he vaguely aware he’s not allowed to do) but he has disrupted Logan’s play, typically in this instance I’ll take the toy off of Alexander and give it back to Logan or ask Logan if Alexander can join in and share (which sometimes works). When the situation is the other way round and Logan takes a toy I am faced with the additional (and difficult) task of explaining why he should give it back. Logan responds that he is ‘sharing’ which isn’t right but I can’t seem to explain, in terms which a five year old can understand, why sharing only works one way for toys (that is you can share your toys but if someone shares their toys with you you aren’t the one that’s sharing).
You typically don’t praise someone for being on the receiving end of a kind act and you can’t really force an act like sharing or it ceases to be praiseworthy. My problem is mainly with the highly mixed definition of the word ‘share’ but I’ve also got an issue with how sharing is to be initiated. Why is it that a child must instantaneously share their toy when asked?
Imagine a similar scenario for an adult: I’m in a coffee shop reading my kindle while a friend is reading the newspaper friends. They ask what I’m reading and it turns out they’ve been wanting to read this book for ages. When they see that they have a chance to read a book they’re really excited about they ask me to share my kindle so that they can read a few chapters while we both drink a cup of coffee, They assure me they’re a fast reader so they won’t have it all afternoon, am I supposed to just hand it over? If you answer no, you’re in the same place as me when it comes to sharing: sharing is a choice, not a necessity, we choose when and what to share. If a child is clearly absorbed in playing with a particular toy, why must they break from their activity instantly for another child who asks for a turn? I’m not saying that they have a right to rudely ignore the other child or not let them have a turn but if they politely say that they are busy with it, offering to let the other child can have it when they’re done, what right do we have to insist that they ‘share’ immediately? Can we even call it ‘sharing’ when it’s forced upon someone?
I understand the importance of cooperative play with others but when did solitary play get so heavily demoted? Of course some activities can only be shared: playing a board game, playing football etc. etc. Maybe I’m getting this wrong, I’m starting to worry that I’m a much less sociable person than I thought I was, because I think everyone has the right to loose themselves in something without fear of their attention being broken to ‘share’ the object of their focus. I’m genuinely irked and confused by this whole issue.
On a side note it looks like sharing (in the dividing sense at least) might be innate. Have a look at the video below: