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I'm just reading an interesting German discussion on the English obsession with forcing children to share - apparently this is wrong, wrong, wrong and even to blame for ...

(220 Posts)
emkana Wed 17-Jun-09 22:05:50

... the recession, as forcing young children to share encourages excessive greed in adulthood. hmm

but seriously, the German consensus is that children should not be forced to share, that they have a right to defend their things and that it's not that children must learn to share, but that children must learn to accept ownership, so as not to demand things that others have. With the argument being that adults are not expected to share their things either, so why should children?

I can kind of see where they are coming from, but for everyday life I would find it very difficult. If ds has a visitor who wants to play with eg his digger, and ds won't let him, and visiting child cries, then I feel I have to enforce that ds shares, because I feel sorry for visiting child and because I want ds to learn empathy. But German viewpoint is that at ds's age you can't expect empathy so shouldn't aim to teach it. So what do you all think?

thisisyesterday Wed 17-Jun-09 22:08:42

i agree with the germans! i can't stand forced "sharing"

FrannyandZooey Wed 17-Jun-09 22:10:07

we have rule about visitors that if there is a toy you don't want to share, you put it away before they come
all remaining toys must be shared
i agree with the german view you describe, more or less!
adults don't share their favourite things and we would be appalled to be expected to

pooka Wed 17-Jun-09 22:12:26

Hmm - tricky one.

I have been known to discuss with dcs before friends come whIch toys are special and therefore should be put away. While leaving the bulk out for free for all. So for example, ds has "stop pirate", a particular ELC pirate. I would not expect him to share that if he did not want to - is akin to a comfort object. Equally, dd has certain things that are special to her, and that I can see would not be fair to make her share.

Generally though, I do expect that they share. I can see that empathy and desire to cooperate and share are tricky things to learn for toddlers. But I don't buy into the whole argument that they cannot be expected to have these skills, so one should not bother to try and teach them. I see it rather that the skill of cooperation and sharing is important and that where reasonable we as parents should try and teach them that lesson.

Am interested - does the discussion you refer to have a consensus about what age is appropriate for learning to share; i.e. is there a magic age at which point it all naturally slots into place, or do the children in question never have to share?

GrimmaTheNome Wed 17-Jun-09 22:12:53

oh, I thought it was going to go on to say that it was to blame for WWII. grin Play nicely Fritz, share Europe with the Poles you can't have it all to yourself.. (sorry, late night tangential thinking)

emkana Wed 17-Jun-09 22:13:51

Apparently if you don't force them to share then by about age six (or even earlier) they do it of their own free will.

FrannyandZooey Wed 17-Jun-09 22:16:55

children learn most things by watching and copying
you don't need to force a child to share for them to learn how - just model sharing yourself - however we are usually expected to enforce socially acceptable behaviour even in tiny children so most people go along with it

SpawnChorus Wed 17-Jun-09 22:18:50

That's so interesting! I feel obliged to encourage DS (2.9) to share when he has a playmate over, but I tend to feel a bit ambivalent about it. I think Franny has articulated my underlying objection - why should he be forced to hand over his most treasured belongings! I'll get him to put away his fave stuff in future.

Merrylegs Wed 17-Jun-09 22:18:55

Hmm. Interesting... What's with the beach towels on the sunbeds, then? Ownership - or just efficient advanced planning?

Seriously - I think you can see that 'ownership' vs 'sharing' debate manifest itself in later life - the British tend to be much more compliant and deferential. (Queuing, for example.) Whereas Germans tend to feel more 'entitlement' towards things. And demand more. So conversely it may have the opposite effect -i.e "I want what she's having. Warum nicht?"

lockets Wed 17-Jun-09 22:19:31

Message withdrawn

janeite Wed 17-Jun-09 22:21:39

Surely adults DO share though?

If I had a bar of chocolate and was with other people who didn't, I would share it.

If I had read a book thatI enjoyed, I'd lend it to a friend.

If visitors came to the house and I had a new stereo, I'd let them try it out. Etc.

Sharing, non?

And the only way they will learn empathy is by being given opportunities to empathise.

F&Z seems to have the right idea imho - some things are shared, some are not.

You can share my chocolate but keep your hands off my dp: that sort of thing!

Maveta Wed 17-Jun-09 22:22:12

this hasn´t come up much for us yet as ds is only 2.2 but I think they should share their toys within reason i.e. putting away special toys or marking them off limits. What I don´t agree with is if ds is playing with his tractor and the other child wants it and cries as a result etc etc. I would defend his right to continue to play with the toy he had first. Likewise if his friend picked up something else and THEN ds wanted it I would defend his friend.

So is this ´German View´ that a kid can have a visitor over but can basically lord it over them the whole time telling them what they can and can´t play with?

And I disagree that adults don´t share.. if a friend is round I´ll share my cookies and chocolate or lend them a book or dvd or whatever.. that´s sharing isn´t it? And believe me, food is very much a favourite thing of mine grin

TsarChasm Wed 17-Jun-09 22:22:43

That's quite a convincing argument they make actually. I never thought of it that way before. (Not sure about the recession bit thoughgrin)

Maybe we do take it too far. I thought everyone was doing the same, but different countries teach different values it seems.

Gosh I don't know now...<gets sore bum sitting on fence> I've always rather liked 'what's yours is mine but what's mine is my own'..I think that's the natural default setting wink I don't promote it in RL though I hasten to add!

I'm regularly presented with situations with my 3 that would test the wisdom of Soloman on the sharing/fair front. By the time we've sorted out a fair & sharing strategy involving egg timers and a lot of shouting, I wonder sometimes whether it wouldn't just be easier to let them argue the whole thing out minus me in a more Lord of the Flies fashion.

Chuffinnora Wed 17-Jun-09 22:23:11

In theory I agree that enforced sharing is pointless and tiresome for young children. However in practice I couldn't sit in playgroup while DS swiped whatever toy took his fancy that day and watch all other toddlers crying and coveting. I just want people to like me too much grin.

Maveta Wed 17-Jun-09 22:23:44

x-posts janeite grin

PinkTulips Wed 17-Jun-09 22:29:35

we have a 'who holds it, owns it' rule.

all toys are joint property but whoever is playing with a toy has it and that's the end of it, they don't have to give it up til they're good and ready.

the only exception is cuddlies which are owned by either child and will be removed from the child who has stolen their siblings cuddly from the bedroom.

works fine for us... my kids are great sharers and will often voluntarily give up a toy to another child which i'm convinced is largely due to the fact that it's not forced on them.

but then i'm dutch so clearly it's the the continental european in me... i have to constantly stop dp from trying to enforce sharing!

ahundredtimes Wed 17-Jun-09 22:34:08

Oh yes, how interesting. I definitely put away things they wouldn't want to share when people came round - and in fact mine still aren't wildy gracious with each other, so I still say, 'if you don't want him to play with it, then put it in your room.'

You could argue that this hoarding attitude might breed a kind of possessive secretiveness though - they'll all grow up to be misers counting their pennies in the corner of dark bedrooms, cradling it, rocking on their feet whispering 'it's mine, all mine.'

Also I've known young children - mine weren't so like this, probably because they were quite close together - who were possessive in a crazed unreasonable way, it was an exercise in power: You couldn't sit there, you couldn't touch that, that was HIS chair etc, they had to go HOME, no he didn't want the BLUE cup but he didn't want the guest to have it EITHER, he must STAND STILL because I SAY SO etc etc. I don't care how old you are - there's nothing wrong with working out that co-operation is helpful and that (sadly) you cannot actually control other people.

frogs Wed 17-Jun-09 22:40:43

link, emkana? wd be interested to read.

why does that not surprise me, actually. It's a different mindset, it really is.

For playdates, it makes sense to put away special things that you know they're going to refuse to share. Things that remain need to be shared, surely? Or do you return a visiting child to its parents in tears because you've allowed your own child to behave like a right little toad towards his visitor?


lockets Wed 17-Jun-09 22:44:07

Message withdrawn

Dlamis Wed 17-Jun-09 22:44:50

I agree too. I read somewhere once they don't even understand the concept of sharing until they are at least 3. But I do think it's something we should encourage rather than force. I can see how forcing can lead to resentment about it and a sort of rebellion/reaction into not sharing.

Yes we do share as adults but it's different to forcing children to share. If i went to someones house I wouldn't expect them to share stuff with me. If they did though it would be because they wanted to, not because some bigger person is standing over them ordering them to share their latest, dvd, wii game, etc etc.

ahundredtimes Wed 17-Jun-09 22:47:13

Golly, I'd expect an adult to share with me. I'd expect to be allowed to sit down, and have a cup of tea, an offer of biscuits, in short I expect them to be hospitable.

If I turned up and they stood there saying, 'it's MY kitchen chair, you CAN'T sit on it'

I would think them insane

emkana Wed 17-Jun-09 22:50:58


emkana Wed 17-Jun-09 22:51:35

Dlamis Wed 17-Jun-09 22:52:11

Oh yes i'd expect a cup of tea and biccie and somewhere to sit. I suppose i don't really think of that as sharing, more just common curtesy.

LeninGrad Wed 17-Jun-09 22:56:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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