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More on Forced Sharing and What it Teaches

Is forcing kids to share teaching them to be easily manipulated

Do you force your kids to share their toys? I used to until I began to wonder what exactly this was teaching them.

I got quite a few comments in my original post on why I do not force my children to share, so I knew it struck a nerve. Here are some additional thoughts on my reasons for this.

Imagine your favorite uncle gives you a shiny, new riding lawn mower. Or for that matter, imagine that you save your money and buy a shiny, new riding lawn mower.

You can't wait to use it and immediately crank it up and begin to mow your front yard.

Now, imagine that after only one round, your neighbor comes over and admires your new mower. He hints that he would like to try it out on his yard, too. When you don't respond he says he would like to use it right now. When you look quizzically at him, he reminds you that sharing is kind. When you keep going and try to ignore him, he stamps his foot and says angrily, "SHARE! Jesus said share!"

Hopefully you cannot imagine a real, live adult behaving in such a way. Think for just a moment about what kind of neighbor would actually do this. A self-centered, demanding, manipulative neighbor?

And think about what message you would be sending to this neighbor if you got off of your brand new mower after only one round, even though you weren't through mowing your yard, simply to give in to his manipulative tactics.

You would essentially be training your neighbor to make irrational demands of you and expect to be accommodated immediately.

Is this really what we want to train our children to be like? Do we want our children to expect to be accommodated when they demand a toy that someone else is playing with, simply because they stamp their foot and say, "SHARE!"?

You may be thinking, "But, my *Little Precious doesn't stamp her foot! She says 'please' and reminds the owner of the toy that 'sharing is nice'."

That is all well and good, and Precious is certainly appearing to use her manners in the above scenario, but I would like to offer the suggestion that she is actually manipulating the owner of the toy to give it over for her own selfish desires.

Why should her own interests and desires take precedence over the child already playing with the toy?

Why should the neighbor's desire to mow his yard "right now" be more important than your desire to use your own mower?

Selfishness, plain and simple.

Friends, if we are teaching our children that they should give in to selfish demands of others because the Bible says to share, or because the Bible says to treat others the way we want to be treated, we are setting them up for a lifetime of being manipulated.

Yes, the Bible does indeed say those things, but we also need to point out to our children when Jesus or the apostles chastised people because their thoughts were on their own selfish desires and not on furthering the kingdom of Christ. (See Matthew 16:23 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-2.)

Please, consider how easy it was for Doug Phillips, a former leader in the Christian homeschooling realm, to manipulate his victim into giving over what she did not want to give, but what he wanted for his own selfish desires.

Consider how Bill Gothard manipulated his victims into, not only doing what they did not wish, but remaining silent about it for years.

Consider how a popular preacher manipulated his many victims, his church, and his family for over 40 years to not recognize or report his sexual abuse of children.

In each of the above cases, the perpetrator counted on the victims being easily manipulated. They counted on the good, Christian consciences of the victims to make them feel compelled to give over what they did not want to give.

Is this what we are training our children to do? Do we want them to give over what is rightfully theirs, simply because someone selfishly demands it?

I say no. I say it is not unChristian to say no.

"No, I am using it."

"No, it is mine."

"No, I do not want to let you have it."

There is nothing wrong with saying these things.

There are many ways to teach generosity and kindness without teaching our children to be easy targets for manipulators.

If you would like to know more about how manipulative people operate, about how they target those who are sensitive and kind, about how Christians can be loving, yet not be manipulated, you might find the following books helpful. (affiliate links)

*Little Precious is a fictional character. Any similarities to a real person are coincidental.

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  1. Good post! I never made my kids give something up while playing with it and told the “wanter” that they need to learn to be patient and wait their turn. Lots of kids tried to manipulate my kids into getting what they wanted in our home. They would often rant, “But I’m the guest!” I said, “Guests need to learn to be patient, wait their turn, and think of others as well. ” :)

  2. Right on, Mama!

  3. We need to teach our children proper discernment. We all fall short of the glory of God and we all receive mercy and grace from God. We need to do the same and share it with others but with proper discernment. Great post.

  4. I get what your saying and I see your point but there are two sides to every coin. Your point being one side and the other side being that it is just a thing and a child’s willingness to give up something he or she is enjoying or loves for someone else to enjoy even though they really don’t want to is a huge lesson as well. They will live through it. The item will come back to them since it is their item. I’m not rewarding the “manipulater” as much as I am teaching my child that giving up what he wants for the sake of someone else is the Gospel. And as for this being a way to protect your children from sexual predators. Hogwash! My husband and I have an adopted daughter through foster care that was abused in this manner and we have been foster parents for many kids in he same situation and the way you stop your child from being a victim is to have open and frank conversations about the very subject. Empowering them to say no in every scenario, telling them over and over that they should always tell no matter what the person said. What gets me about Gothard and those like him is that their victim group came from people whom we all know where more than closed off from society and “the world” and I’m sure never had frank and loving conversations about sex and abuse. I was made share and I’m not a pushover. All my kids were made share and they are not pushovers but they do have a good understanding of what it means to give up ones own needs and wants for the sake of others and I think that starts in the play yard!

    • Valerie says:

      Carol, you are SURE they NEVER had talkes of sex or abuse? I don’t want to attack your comment but I do have to say its irresponsible and slanderous to talk of a group of people you have never met and certainly never been privileged to their intimate conversationts with their parents. I am certain you don’t really believe you can KNOW that they never had these conversationts with their parents. The thing about abuse is not our understanding that we “should tell”, its shame. Its a disgusting feeling of being trapped and feeling shame and NOT WANTING to share with others no matter if you’ve been told you should. My mother was molested and raped and raised us to always tell, and to always protect ourselves. She was adament from the time we were little to always tell and have no secrets. Yet my sister and I both had negative semi sexual experiences when we were young and we didn’t want to tell. My point to this is just because they seem different as a group (those that followed Bill Gothard) and seemed “different from the world” doesn’t mean their parents weren’t protecting them.

  5. Something struck me about the idea of treating others as we would like to be treated. Sure, if I wanted something that someone else had, I would like them to give it over to me immediately and selflessly, putting my pleasure first. But now flip the scenario around. The one doing the asking maybe needs to think, if I were playing with that toy, how would I like to be treated? Would I like to have to give up the toy right away, or would I like it if the other child asked politely and then was prepared to wait? Would I like to be forced into giving up something potentially precious to me,or would I rather be given the chance to express real generosity from the heart? Enforced sharing might temporarily keep the peace, but it doesn’t necessarily help the children examine their heart attitudes, or be kind because they really want to be. Thanks as well, Connie, for pointing out the broader and more serious implications of this.

  6. I try to be discerning on this. Is my 12 or 9 yr old playing with my 3 yr old’s toy? When the answer is yes, then I remind the 3 yr old to share and the older two that it is not nice to make the 3 yr old cry or scream over a toy. They are admonished to ask(even if it is after the fact)if they can play with said toy for a few minutes more, or if she would please share or trade, negotiate if possible. When a toy has a clear “owner” you must have owner’s permission, same is true between the older siblings, just more pronounced with the little.

    Like your example I can’t just go play with my neighbors toys just because they aren’t using them at the moment I want to.

    When at a friends house we teach, ask if you can play with it next, then find something else to play with. Teaching delayed gratification of wants, and not forcing someone to share by giving up something they are doing.

    Lastly we also teach putting away toys that they do not want shared into special locations(my room when visitors are over). They are not allowed everything to be special, but to be discerning and understand what “special” means.

  7. I have struggled with this with my boys, and feel like I’ve swung from one end of the pendulum to the other. I’m definitely on your end now — mainly because of our country’s increasing “what you have is mine” culture. I need to teach my children about property rights — so that they don’t lose them later when someone tries to tell them they are selfish for not wanting to give the hard-earned fruits of their labor to someone who refuses to work at all.

  8. In my mind the concept of sharing is more along the lines that if my son gets a bunch of legos, that the other girls can play with them too. The legos do not forever remain “his toy”. I wouldn’t let them destroy a specific set of legos that he’s working on or something like that, but the toys in the house sort of all become the toys of the house. Certainly every child has a few special items that are really important to them that are just theirs. I see your point here that the selfishness can go both ways. I guess the thought is that we don’t want our kids hoarding their toys. But of course it is silly to demand a child share something he is playing with at that very moment. Do parents expect that? My youngest is 5 and when we have a younger child come over I expect her to go find some good toys for that little one to play with. That is my concept of sharing that we are to expect our children to do. I would not expect the parent of the young child to bring their own toys to the house because my kids just can’t bear to have any of theirs played with. That’s the type of sharing I do think we should demand.

  9. Interesting. The other day our three older kids were playing tennis at the park. We had just picked up some rackets and the kids are learning to play and had begged to go to the park so they could practice. A younger boy came along and asked to play. Our younger son handed over his racket and sat on the sidelines until his older brother took pity and gave up his racket to his younger brother. The boy continued to play until his grandpa took him home. He never offered to “give up a turn” for our kids. Frankly I’m thrilled that our kids can share and do so without whining or being told, but I felt badly the whole time that our kids weren’t able to play when they had waited and planned for it all day. I’ll need to think about this some more.

  10. Natalie says:

    Connie, I think what you are trying to teach is more about attitude. I do believe Jesus wants us to share, but with a willing heart. For instance, over and over in the Bible, it says to GIVE, GIVE… BUT with a willing heart. I do teach my children to share, because it is very close to giving. I do NOT see sharing as socialistic BECAUSE my husband and my mother come from 2 different, extremely socialistic countries—and if anything, their country people are NOT givers, nor sharers at all. They are extremely close-fisted. (I am saying this because of some comments I had seen on your Facebook page, saying that SHARING is socialistic.)

    Also, I discussed this with my husband, and he said that at his work, (he’s in Information Technology) that everyone shares information willingly to help the company succeed. And, it’s true….in many jobs sharing information is necessary to help everyone get ahead. (From working in a restaurant to teaching school.)

    Sharing shows caring….and it’s amazing that I don’t hardly have to ask my children to share after they reach 6 years old. They not only do it with each other, they also do it with strangers….they feel for people, and to me, that’s showing Jesus’s love to others. The times when they receive a gift or have just purchased something, then they are the first ones to enjoy/use it. However, afterwards, they share. Now, if it’s something that is not age appropriate for the little ones, then they don’t share it with them–but they play with it out of view of the little ones.

    I try to relate it to Jesus, and I do know that He wants us to give willingly. He told many people to give away all they had and follow Him. He told the disciples not to carry anything with them but the clothes on their backs. I would rather my children learn that material possessions are not the most important thing in the world, but Love is. We do have a lot of possessions, being blessed to live in the USA, but I try to teach my children that they are not more important than someone’s heart.

    Regarding the above article, I find that it isn’t true about everyone. The funny thing is, my kids never used expressions like “Share because Jesus said so!” or “Sharing is nice.” or anything like that to get a toy–It never seems to be much of an issue. Maybe it’s in our genes… Also, my 6 children are the stubbornest of the Stubborn, and when they don’t want to do something, they let anyone know–even a huge cranky karate teacher! LOL (My 2nd youngest daughter decided she didn’t want to do pushups for goofing off during class…so she ended up out of the class–never did the pushups.) Also, my children are not pushovers—you can ask anyone who knows them. They do not say the “right things,” they say everything with honesty—sometimes too much honesty! LOL

    So, to me, SHARING does not necessarily have a correlation to being taken advantage of….it does not mean that you will not say NO when in a dangerous situation….it does teach patience, and it does teach that life isn’t fair….because not everyone shares. However, I love the fact that everyone who knows my children are always surprised at their generosity and their kind attitude about it. A child that does not share a toy with one of my children who have been waiting for it is an example to my children of why we do share, so we don’t make other children feel the hurt that he/she experienced. SHARING comes in many forms….I share smiles with strangers every time I’m out :)

  11. I LOVE what you have to say here. Thankfully I heard the basics of it years ago in Ginger Plowman’s book “Don’t Make Me Count to Three,” so I have used it with our children to some extent. I grew up with the typical “SHARE!” mantra, but thinking about it did make me realize how incredibly rude that concept is in practice.


    Now that you’ve written so beautifully on the subject, could you share a bit about HOW you make this work?

    For example, do all of your toys and books have individual owners? Does each of your children have a separate place to store his toys/books? I think I’m just a little bit confused as to how this works out practically. I’d love to hear about some real-life examples and rules that go along with this principle.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

  12. My husband and I can not agree on this subject. he is an only child I was made to share as a child. I think children need to be able to play and not give up what they are doing. If they want to give it freely no problem there. Great points.

  13. I didn’t think I was going to agree with you, but I do! Great post. I don’t think we should reward children’s greedy behavior. I like the idea of “taking turns” when there is something special our kids like to play with. Too often I’ve made one of our children share, only to have their special item broken by a spoiled, irresponsible kid. Thanks for this perspective.

  14. Ann Matlack says:

    Connie…You are exactly correct, not even to mention that you don’t know what kind of diseases that child could be carrying around and spreading to your childs toys…There is nothing wrong with the word “NO”…God uses it many times with us..


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