“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”(Philippians 2:4).
What does it mean to share? What are we trying to teach our children when we teach them to share?
There are at least two sides to sharing:
- Letting others enjoy the things we have. This is the obvious part of sharing. One child has a toy, and he needs to learn to cheerfully allow others to enjoy it, too.
- Being content with what we have. This is the other side of sharing, and the side that often stirs up the most contention between children. A child wants a toy that another child has. He tends to think that, since he wants it, he should have it. He needs to learn to be patient, polite, and happy even if he never gets a turn with the toy. He cannot demand that someone share with him.
In the next two posts, we will look at these two sides of sharing. In this post, let’s set some groundwork.
Children need to learn early that limits exist. Sharing doesn’t mean that a child has a right to anything he wants or asks for. If a child thinks everything is for his pleasure, he won’t take kindly to sharing with anyone else. But he will think everyone else should give him anything he demands.
Establish “no-no’s” when children are young. They should not have the freedom to get into drawers, cupboards, closets, purses, etc. without permission. Make sure children know what their limits are, and discipline them when they choose to disregard those limits.
Not only will these boundaries help a child realize that he cannot have everything he wants; they will also lead to a safer, more peaceful and orderly household, and will make you and your family much more welcomed guests in others’ homes. A child can become a terror when he believes the whole world is his to use as he pleases.
Children need to understand the concept of ownership. Not everything is theirs to use as they please. Some things are Daddy’s. Some things are Mommy’s. Some things belong to siblings, and other things are used by everyone in the family. But some things are his. Even young children will benefit from having some things that are theirs. This will help them understand that most things are not theirs.
It’s good for a child to have some things that are his own. Birthday and Christmas gifts and items he has purchased with his own money should not be viewed as communal property among all the siblings. If he has some personal belongings, he will have the opportunity of learning to share them, and will better understand that others have their own belongings that he should not use without asking.
Children need to learn to care for their own belongings. They have been blessed by others with necessities and gifts, and have worked and saved to buy things. Now they become grateful stewards of those blessings. They should learn to put toys away, hang up their clothes or put them in drawers, park their bicycles in the garage, and play in a way that doesn’t destroy their things. If they learn how to care for their own belongings, they will be better prepared to take care of things that others share with them. If they are grateful stewards of God’s blessings, they will also be more ready to share those blessings with others.
Children need to learn that everything they have is a gift from God. God has blessed them, and wants them to bless others with His gifts. A heart that is grateful for all it has received, is much more ready to give to others.
Next week we’ll look at the child who wants what the other child has. Stay tuned! 🙂