“He’s Not Sharing!”


I bought it for $1.99 at Goodwill. I thought it would be a fun present for one of the grandkids. They could pretend to take pictures with it.

My husband is the one who pointed out that it was a real camera. He fiddled with some things, put in some batteries, and we had a real working, bright pink, Fisher-Price digital camera.

Now it was too hot of an item to give to just one child. So it became part of our household toy collection.

That’s when “He’s not sharing!” became a more common complaint in our house…

You’ve seen it — probably more than usual since Christmas Day two weeks ago. One child is happily playing with a toy. Her brother wants it. He tries to get it, and when he doesn’t succeed, the pouty face turns on and he starts whining, “She won’t share!”

What he’s really saying is, “I want it. I want it now. She won’t give it to me. Make her give it to me.”

We can choose-our-own-adventure at this point:

  • We might decide to focus on the child with the toy, reasoning that she needs to learn to share. We don’t want her to be selfish, and besides, if she gives up the toy, we’ll have peace and quiet again. So we may tell her that she needs to share, and then require her to give the toy to her brother. Brother learns that if he wants something, he gets it. If he makes enough noise, he wins.
  • We might tell Brother that he needs to wait his turn. Often this is true. If he waits, he probably will get a chance to play with that toy. But just because he wants something doesn’t mean he has the right to have it, even if he is willing to wait. We need to be careful what we teach our children. When they want something that someone else has, they won’t always get it. Real life just doesn’t work that way. So we need to learn to be content.
  • We might point out a better toy to Brother. “Look! There’s a bigger, better whatchmacallit right over there! Why don’t you play with that one?” Brother learns that if he wants something, and he can’t have it, he should get something bigger and better instead. Then he can lord it over the person who had what he wanted.
  • We might appeal to Sister, pointing out that God has blessed her with things that she in turn has the privilege of blessing others with. She has the opportunity to give joy to her brother by sharing with him. When she’s done with the toy, she should share with him.

Sister may gladly hand off the toy to her brother (score!), or she may seize this opportunity to wield power, by lingering over the toy, taking more pleasure in keeping it from her brother than any pleasure she is gaining from actually playing with it.

  • We might try to just ignore the whole situation, until it breaks into a fight. Then we can step in, do our own little grown-up tantrum, and put the toy away where no one can play with it. Brother learns that if he can’t have the toy, at least he can make it so she can’t either.
  • Or we can choose another ending for this story. We can pray for wisdom and patience, acknowledging that we and our children are all sinners in need of God’s grace. We, with God’s help, can then take the time to look at His Word with our children.

We can assure them that our eyes and ears are never going to be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 1:8). When we get what we think we want, we’ll just want something else. We probably all have our own stories that we can share to illustrate this truth.

We can help them understand that wrongfully wanting what someone else has is sin. It’s called coveting and coveting is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). It’s making something else more important than God and our obedience to Him.

We can help them learn to be content with what they have (Hebrews 13:5). God has given them everything that He knows is good for them. They can trust Him, even with little things like toys.

We can help them see that it’s even better to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:35). We will gain joy by sharing what God has given us with others. He has blessed us so that we in turn can bless others. We can teach them this by our own generous example, by leading our family in sacrificial giving, and by helping them learn to see opportunities for cheerfully giving of themselves to others.

We can remind them that we are commanded to not covet. (Exodus 20:17). We won’t earn God’s favor by obeying Him. Jesus has already done that for us, and we need to help our children understand this. But we please God when we obey Him. If we love Him, and if we love Jesus who went to the cross to save us, then we will want to obey Him. Not coveting — not sinfully wanting what someone else has and instead, being content with what God has given us — is one way to do that.

We can’t do all this every time one child wants what the other one has. But we can be proactive. We know this situation is going to come up. Why not prepare for it?

  • Talk about coveting when everything is peaceful instead of waiting until a tussle begins.
  • Memorize some key verses together so everyone is armed and ready to fight against this so-common sin.
  • Role play some different scenarios and help your children walk through proper, godly responses.
  • Remind them of God’s blessings as you go through the day, and stop to thank Him for them.
  • Pray each morning, asking God to help you all love each other and to be kind and generous with each other.
  • Then be ready to remind the children of what they have already learned. Stop and pray with them when they start to covet each other’s things. Coach them through the situation. And thank God for Jesus who obeyed His Father perfectly and has given us the ability and desire to obey Him, too.

It will take time, but our efforts, bathed in prayer and blessed by God’s heart-changing grace and power, will bear fruit.


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