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.
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)
- Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
- Who's Pulling Your Strings?: How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life
- In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
*Little Precious is a fictional character. Any similarities to a real person are coincidental.