An incident at a park and a Missouri mother’s passionate Facebook post about it have touched off a heated parenting debate: Do kids always need to share with others?
Alanya Kolberg of Springfield took her son, Carson, to a park to play with a friend last week. She wrote on Facebook how a group of boys approached him “demanding” that he share his Transformer, Minecraft figurine and truck with them, toys he had taken to share with his friend.
“He was visibly overwhelmed and clutched them to his chest as the boys reached for them. He looked at me. ‘You can tell them no, Carson,’ I said. ‘Just say no. You don’t have to say anything else.’
“Of course, as soon as he said no, the boys ran to tattle to me that he was not sharing. I said, ‘He doesn’t have to share with you. He said no. If he wants to share, he will.’”
Kolberg expressed her frustration later in a lengthy Facebook post that began with this declaration: “MY CHILD IS NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE WITH YOURS.”
She wrote that when she told her son he didn’t have to share other parents shot her 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?
“The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults. 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.”
She challenged other parents to rethink the lessons they’re teaching their children.
“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,” she wrote.
The post hit a nerve. Facebook users have shared it more than 225,000 times and it’s been featured on several national and international websites. The Scary Mommy blog posted it and called it “required reading for all parents.”
Sounding incredulous over all the attention, Kolberg told her Facebook friends: “We just took a Transformer to the park.”
She’s gotten some pushback. “This is actually a very harmful way of thinking,” one Facebook commenter wrote. “What you are doing is raising a child who will feel entitled to have everything both their own stuff and everyone else’s. Not the best idea.”
But most people seem to agree with her thoughts on helping children set boundaries.
“As a preschool Teacher, you would be surprised how many parents are disturbed by my take on sharing,” wrote another Facebook commenter. “I always ask them ‘if you had 100 dollars, and I wanted 50, would you give it to me? No.’ You would use your words to say no, not cry or hit me. That’s what I teach my kids, to use words to politely say ‘no thank you, this belongs to me, or I’m [sic] using this right now.’”
Another woman wrote: “Kids are required to share public property like the toys and slides and swings at the park. These toys are his personal property just like his shirt and shoes. He doesn't need to share his personal property.”
Maria Guido, senior news editor for Scary Mommy, seconded that thought.
“Seriously. Who makes these rules? Yes, we have to teach our kids to share, but the message isn’t ‘sacrifice everything you have, all the time’ is it? I mean, why?” Guido wrote.
“Just because another kid happens to want to play with something your kid has, does that mean he has to give it up? If I get the coveted window seat at my favorite cafe in town, I don’t just give it up to the first adult who walks in who looks at it longingly. This is essentially what we’re teaching our kids they have to do by demanding they give up something another kid wants, all the time.”