Ownership or Selfishness?


Ownership or selfishness? | LazyHippieMama.com

To share or not to share, that is the question.

I have a dear friend who has vowed to never force her child to share against his will. If something is his then it is his and he doesn’t have to share it if he doesn’t want to, just like no one can require you to loan out your car or your favorite dress or any of the other things we hesitate to part with as adults.

I get it and I can’t say that I disagree with her logic. I can’t even imagine trying to tell my boy he has to share his Bunny!

This past week Heather Hippyhomesteader shared this link on Facebook (one of my favorite pages, by the way. You should follow her! She’s is always thought-provoking and offers lots of helpful info.): “Why I Don’t Make My Son Share.”  The writer shares many of the same feelings as my friend adding, “I think it does a child a great disservice to teach him that he can have something that someone else has, simply because he wants it.”

Again, I don’t disagree.

On the other hand…

I started thinking about the examples she shared in the story and I thought, where do we draw the line between teaching our children that it’s OK to have things that are dear to us and it’s good and right to consider the needs, feelings and desires of others.

The writer told a story that her child was playing with a toy that another child wanted and she refused to make him get off, even when another child asked repeatedly to use it. He played with the toy for the entire duration of the event they were attending.

I’m not sure I would make my kid give up the toy either. There are other toys, even some very nearly identical (according to the author). On the other hand, if I were at the gym and I was waiting my turn for the treadmill and the jerk in front of me refuses to get off.. like… ever… well…  that’s just rude and irritating. Yes, I can use the elliptical, but it’s really not the same. Yes, he paid his dues and has a right to the equipment as well as I do but…  well… where do you draw the line?

Of course, that’s all hypothetical as I seriously don’t do the gym (LAZY Hippie Mama, remember?) but what about this:

A friend recently asked to borrow my car for a very legitimate reason. It’s my car. I paid for it. I insure it. I maintain it. I don’t HAVE to share it, but why in the world wouldn’t I? She’s a responsible woman. She’s a careful driver. She has a need that I can help fill. It’s the kind thing to do and there have been times when others have done just that same thing for me.

Maybe if we all worried a little less about “it’s MINE!” and thought a little more about, “how does NOT having this make that person feel?” the world would be a kinder place.

But, going back to the original piece, it really doesn’t seem right that anyone should feel entitled to what I have worked to earn.

How do you teach all this to a toddler when we, as adults, don’t even seem to have it figured out yet? A tiny portion of the population has a huge portion of the “toys.” They will tell you all day long how they worked to earn those toys and they shouldn’t have to share. And maybe they are right. Then again, maybe not.


Am I the only parent that seriously overthinks these issues?

I would love to hear your thoughts! What do you think?

Where do you draw the line between teaching your child about ownership and teaching them about compassion for others?

Or, to put it more bluntly…

Where do you draw the line between not forcing your kid to share and allowing them to grow up to be a selfish jerk?

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About Elizabeth in MI

I'm a married mama with 2 beautiful step children, 2 from my own belly, and the best husband in the universe! I work part time at my church as a secretary and youth director and I truly enjoy 3 hour naps and reading fiction beneath my education level. Write me a note, any time at lazyhippiemama@hotmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.

8 responses »

  1. I make my little kids share, however that being said, I don’t make them give up something just because someone wants it. I do expect that when they are done with the toy they have, that they allow someone else to enjoy it. I think that having them share while they are younger helps teach them to think of others in addition to themselves. It also helps teach them generosity. Now that two of mine are older (9 and 10) I let them to choose if they want to share their things. If they decide not to, that’s their choice but they’ve learned to give and take with each other to get enjoyment for themselves. My boy is very generous, when he gets a treat (say a candy bar while grocery shopping), often times he will save half of it for his sister. She on the other hand has yet to ever offer the same in return (I can’t say I blame her), but I don’t make her share with him just because he’s done so in the past. It was his choice to share with her, so it should be her choice as well. It’s all a part of growing up and learning to think about the choices they make, and how they will affect those around them.

    • Another thought. When you have multiple children who are close in age, (ie. With the same interests in toys etc) it’s hard not to teach them to share/take turns. If you didn’t, I’d have to imagine you’d either go broke buying everyone their own, or go crazy refereeing fights all day.

  2. I find the concept of “taking turns” is SOOO much more helpful than sharing. Also, I would definitely point out to my child that another kid looks sad or distressed because they really want to try something. I usually tell my kids if they bring a toy to a public place – like a park or playground – and if it is cool, other kids will want to use it. Lots of times they decide not to bring it and that is a great way to avoid the situation before they are ready to share.

    I totally don’t think forced “sharing” is beneficial (or really sharing at all!) But I do think that kids need some guidance when they are little. I’ve found with my presence and support kids are usually very generous and reasonable. Also once they are older I try to “sit back” more. For example, my daughter (almost 8) is very generous and mature. This past February we were at a children’s museum and she was enjoying a hands-on display. Another girl came up behind her and was patiently waiting. I resisted the urge to butt in and point it out to Marisol. She played a while longer (long enough for it to get a bit uncomfortable for me) – then she handed it over the girl. It was pretty awesome.

    And no, you are not the only parent to over-think these things. 😉 I think it’s very necessary to analyze these situations and question conventional wisdom.

  3. I think the way you worded your questions there at the end reveals your innermost feelings on the matter. And I agree with you. Though I also agree that it’s a tricky issue. Perhaps good compromise would be setting a time limit with a certain toy. We sometimes say, “X gets it for 2 more minutes. Then it’s Y’s turn.” Of course, in my family, the kids are all Xs! Ha!

  4. I’d say there’s definitely a difference between being forced to share something that belongs to you, and being taught to take turns and do what’s fair. We have a Playstation and two kids – each one has received games for their birthdays that belong to them personally. But if Chato doesn’t want to share his FIFA game, then Chino isn’t going to share his Minecraft game later.

    And they’ve had to learn to take turns, because I do not resolve their issues for them. If they have a problem, they have to figure it out themselves without yelling or hitting – because as soon as any fighting starts, they both lose the Playstation for the rest of the day.

    There was a night when Chato was being kind of a jerk (my kids are teens now, not littles!) and I finally sent him to his room. They had been playing with one of his games on the PS2, and in his little huff on the way to his room, he decided he would take his game with him. I didn’t let him, and he got even angrier – “I thought it was my game? I can’t decide who gets to play with my game?” – I told him “No, not at this moment, you don’t.” When he calmed down, I explained to him that if he had a rule of not letting his brother play with that game, it would have been one thing – but he was only being spiteful in this situation, and that’s not how we were going to behave in our house.

    So, yeah – I think there are ways to teach kids not to be jerks to each other without infringing upon their right of ownership 🙂

    • Very well said! Very similar to what we do. I guess in my original comment, I saying sharing, but really am referring to taking turns.

  5. We encourage the big kids to take turns. They discuss how many minutes they intend to use the toy. The waiting child then has an opportunity to build his/her character and gaining patience.

    As far as my stuff goes, I acknowledge it is just stuff and desire to help a brother or sister in need. Sometimes it is harder than others.

  6. This is such a tough one. I think sharing is important but so is choice. I think that taking turns in important too and is a form of sharing. I agree with Susan that we need to teach kids that if they have something that they don’t want to share, it’s usually best to leave it at home. The flip side is explaining to them that if their friend has something that they want to play with but their friend clearly doesn’t want to share with them, they have to respect that.

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