The Sharing Debate

My gosh I find it so facinating that there are so many ideas about sharing and young children.

On one hand there’s the idea that learning to share should be forced from a young age. Then at the other end of the spectrum there is this idea that forced sharing is entirely damaging.

I don’t agree with either. As always we run a middle ground.

For us sharing is sometimes a necessity as well as a giver of happiness, I don’t buy three packets of the same coloured pencils even though I have three children who use them, I can’t afford to do that. There’s experience in it for my kids to learn to take turns and share at any age, even I share respectfully with them. We all do art together and share those supplies, it’s more fun that way. Aside from impractical things like underware lol, almost everything in this house is shared like this.

My 11 year old shares his tech with his three year old sister. He doesn’t have to but he likes to see her happy so he does even though she’s a bit rough and he knows we can’t replace it if it breaks. He trusts her and holds her happiness over the value of a possession, new or otherwise. When friends come we share, and if we have the capacity to help a stranger with something, we share then too. (Shirts off backs to strangers have happened in our family.)

I’m the weirdo that would loan out literally anything to a friend. Car if they needed it, money if we had it, food I have given plenty of times. The perceived value of this stuff is not equal to another’s happiness and a dear relationship.

Sharing is caring. If you care for the other human, to make them happy you share and experience things together, if you do not have an unhealthy attachment to possessions this would make you happy too. I find encouraging attachment to possessions is the same as encouraging materialism. Stuff is not precious, people are.

As adults we share public transport, libraries, roads, parks, hospitals, police services, schools etc, you pay for those so you could claim part of it is yours. (It’s roughly 11 km per aussie person for roads if anyone is interested) If you recieve government payments you are even sharing money. I’m wondering why it is that even though that is forced sharing we are ok with it if ownership and autonomy over stuff is so important? I think because it works out better that way.

Sharing usually works out better. One can help others, its less of a burden because of its inclination to minimilisim, one can find joy in giving, it can strengthen friendships and entire communities, lotsa warm n fuzzies. When a parent allows (and seperate themselves from the learning opportunity of) a child who feels justified that their possessions are of higher value than a friendship. It does the reverse. They decide on their own that it’s ok not to help others, they decide on their own that people are less if they have less, they decide more is better and in the long run they decide community comes after autonomy with regards to possessions.

Is it possible for a small non-coerced child to share possessions? Yes. It is. It’s a learning curve but provided non excessive attachment to possessions is modeled consistently, it is possible. Excessive fear of loss of possessions isn’t something one should humor in good faith that it will change. It’s just stuff, not the end of the world, that is the reality, just go look at a dump at how much we consume that disappears from our lives daily. It doesn’t really disappear. Less is more.

I also find it really hard to either force/guilt any one of my children to either share or deny a sharing opertunity to them. If I can give or share it I will and they, more often than not, do the same because we encourage them to do so.

I remember I tried to set up a shared science toys library for homeschoolers in the area. I got the idea from the shared and gifting economy books I was reading at the time. Some people got it others missed the point. “Where did you get that and we need one” was the most common response to the idea… not what I was going for.

Minimalisim lends itself to sharing, intentional communities are based on sharing but it seems that the majority miss the point just like this. You do not need one of everything, you need trust and relationships in your community. This starts when you are very small. Practice is as always key.

I’d also like to add that possessions are not the same as ones own body. Bodies are not objects. That difference should be made abundantly clear to a child well before pretty much anything else. I used to ask my children if I could change their nappy or put warm clothes on them. Respect of the body is not the same as generosity of possessions.

Possession are not alive, they don’t need you and the vast majority of times you don’t need them all to yourself.  I believe this is what should be modeled by parents for their children. Hopefully they catch on in a sharing saturated environment.

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