We all want our kids to grow up and be well-rounded adults who have the ability to empathize. Part of raising our kids to be the kind of adults we want them to is teaching them to share. But how do parents know when to draw the line of what should and shouldn't be shared? Does a child need to share everything they have? After some grievous mistakes, I learned some guidelines about how much sharing is too much sharing.
Can the object be replaced? The other day my son's friend broke my son's laptop. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled. Realizing that the mother of the child would not only make no effort to fix or replace it, much less have the child face any responsibility, I quickly deduced that I was on my own. While my son and I both want to be nice to people and share with those that may have less than us, it also makes good sense to protect our own property. From now on, we need to treat "sharing time" like a loan. If you're willing to give up the object with the idea that it may get broken or lost (and not replaced), then sharing is fine. Otherwise, it's a no-go.
Allow your child to say "no". My son was shocked the other day when he asked if one of his friends could borrow my bike. I refused. Why? Because I like my bike and I'm not willing to risk having to fix it because someone else was careless. Our children have the right to make these choices too. Of course, there is a fine line between being selfish and being protective of our property. You, as the parent, get to draw that line, but be sure to let your child have some input.
Avoid personal show and tell or bragging. Sure, we all like to show our friends the new cool toy we got, even as adults. No kid wants to share a new item, so they probably should either not show it to their friends at all or do so while mentioning that this isn't a object that he or she wants anyone else to use.
Recognize when sharing is safe. If a child comes to your house and never shares anything they have with your child, then your child probably shouldn't share anything major with them. Otherwise, the visiting child is bound to take advantage of the situation. The result is usually that the child only visits when there is something there that he or she wants to play with. Sharing on a regular basis with children and adults like this only promotes their behavior and is not actually cultivating a true friendship.
Know when to adapt. There are those that simply have nothing to share, but are true friends. A good friend is worth more than any object you might or might not share with that person. If the child is respectful to you and the things in your house, but couldn't possibly replace something they might break, it's up to you to decide if it's worth the risk. Some children have everything they want and respect nothing while other children have nothing they want and treat others' property with respect. You should be able to see a behavior pattern that will indicate how you should view the situation.
It's great to teach kids to share, but they also need to learn personal responsibility and not leave themselves open to be used by other kids. It's a fine line to be sure, but that's just one of the many parts of being a parent that didn't come with a "How to" manual.
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References: Personal and professional experience