Please Don’t Make Your Kid Share With Mine


Have you ever been at a play date, or in a public play place when the inevitable happens? Two kids want the same toy. Both moms feel obligated to force their kid to share. After all, that’s good parenting, right?

I don’t think so. I write bearing good news: you don’t need to force your kid to share with mine.

Sometimes my toddler will approach a new friend and try to yank a toy out of their hands, which is normal toddler behavior. I intervene and tell my baby, “No thank you; not your turn,” and hand it back to the original kid.

Some parents feel obligated to tell their child, “You need to share!” meaning, “Hand over the toy,” just because my kid decided it was his turn. And when a child grabs a toy from my toddler, there may be an expectation that I will make my toddler share right then and there.

But that’s not how sharing really works, is it? Realistic sharing is more like taking turns. Your baby has their turn, then when they lose interest (which generally happens fairly quickly with little ones), my baby has his turn.

Sure, there are exceptions. If one kid has been hoarding the toy for a while, it might be nice if the parent uses a distraction technique to free it up. And at a certain age (my seven-year-old comes to mind), some respectful taking of turns can be expected and encouraged. Fostering generosity and compassion in kids is important. But coercing a kid to give up a prized possession, whether new found or well-loved, is not the way to instill such values.

Forcing your child to share immediately when someone asks for their toy teaches them to hand over their belongings indiscriminately, even if they’re still using them, even if they’re engrossed in them, even if they’re busy learning. It interrupts their focus and concentration. It puts their needs second, instead of first, and everyone deserves to have their needs put first sometimes. Giving under duress isn’t the same as giving out of the desire to be generous, and it doesn’t help teach children why taking turns and being generous are virtues.

Being on the other end of it, not expecting other kids to immediately share with my kids teaches my children patience. It teaches them that taking turns is important, inspiring an atmosphere of equality, where everyone of every age will get their turn at some point. We can teach our older children further patience by encouraging them to give little kids a turn first, since their brains are less developed and younger children have a harder time waiting.

We can help our children understand the importance of giving, generosity, and compassion as their brains continue to develop along with their ability to empathize. The reason a toddler might have a distress tantrum at the thought of sharing isn’t because they’re spoiled or possessive or materialistic; it’s because they’re children with limited impulse control and emotional regulation. As they get older, we can help them develop empathy by explaining how their actions affect others, by relating their own experiences to those of others, and by modeling generosity in our own behavior.

We can also teach our older kids that sharing isn’t mandatory; for instance, my seven-year-old has a couple of toys he has deemed “too special” to share. This is an approach respectful of personal autonomy, and the truth is, I don’t automatically share either. I do share a lot, but I certainly have possessions that I consider too valuable (monetarily or sentimentally) to hand over to the kiddos. And that’s okay too.

Instead of enforcing a compulsory sharing tactic, know that not all of us parents out there are expecting automatic sharing, and we respect your child’s right to have some quality time with their toy of choice. There are a lot of ways to teach a child empathy— forced sharing does not have to be one of them.

Do you make your kids share?

13 thoughts on “Please Don’t Make Your Kid Share With Mine”

  1. Yes!!! I totally agree.
    I hate it when I’ve already told my kid she can’t have something and another mom forces their kid to give it up. They HAVE to learn delayed gratification and that they CANNOT always have what they want!!!!
    I do reward them for their patience and I respect their boldness at times.
    But I don’t make a habit of forcing them to share.

  2. I totally agree. I don’t expect my child to run up and take something another child is playing with (obviously, this is never ok). And I don’t expect them to share on demand. However, I do ask them to be considerate and realize someone else would like a turn with the toy they’re playing with. Take a few minutes with it and then pass it onto that child: “Hey, kiddo. Someone else wants to give it a whirl. Take 3 or 4 or 5 more minutes, then let’s give them a chance to play with it.”. Let’s take some turns. After all, we’re trying to teach our little people to interact in the real world some day and that’s how I would handle the situation as an adult.

  3. When my child is being the grabby one, I in fact, tell her that she has to share and its not her turn. I love this article, this is how sharing should work. No one should have to immediately give something up but take turns

  4. Yes, yes, and yes! In fact I never use the word “share” with kids. I say, “take turns.” And that doesn’t mean an immediate turn. Kids can learn patience and compassion by waiting for their turn and offering others a turn as well.

  5. I started to read the article above and was kind of going “what”, but after reading I agree with her. I never allow my granddaughter to take a toy being played with or someone taking something she was playing with. I had a friend that informed my granddaughter that all the toys in the house belonged to his daughter. we were over for a visit. I informed him that was ok but my granddaughter was allowed to play with them. said friend had a bad habit of letting his daughter grab toy and when mine protested would put the toy away so no one could play with it. his daughter would trail mine around trying to get toy away from her. she had 3 totes with toys but that one was her’s.

  6. This is so true. I have 4 kids and they are constantly fighting over toys so I know managing sharing is not so simple as to ask a little one to give up his or her toy.

  7. “Sharing” is different than “taking turns”; it implies that the child play with that toy with the other child, rather than hand it over to them. I think parents and other adults caring children need to remember the difference be used it’s confusing for kids when they are taught that sharing is equivalent to taking turns. This is a great post and I agree with the author. I would like to add that there are certain circumstances where “taking turns” should be expected. If you are in a public play area you have the same expectation as other parents that intentionally brought their children to the play area that your child be able to have access to the toys or equipment provided as public entertainment. In those scenarios, expecting that kids take turns after a certain amount of playtime should be expected because equal access is fair. However, if your chill brought their personal toys with them to be used in that public area, they should never be expected to allow another child to use them nor should other parents expect that you tell your child to hand them over. If you have guests over, you should expect that your child share or take turns with their toys; if there are “special” items they don’t want anyone to touch, they should place them in safe area at least until the kids are old enough to understand and respect another persons right to that privacy.

  8. I do not make children “share ” . I teach the children to ask the child
    ” when you are finished playing with the toy can I have it? “

    1. Bob you seem to have even more time on your hands spending it on being passive aggressive and rude. I hope you don’t have any kids yourself.

    2. I’m confused as to how raising respectful children implies we have too much time on our hands. I am a stay at home mom that babysits two other children. As I am typing this my three year old just came to me and asked “when Truman gets done can I have a turn sitting there.” I think I have used my time quite wisely.

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