Imagine yourself at work taking a break, and in comes a work colleague.
He grabs your phone from your hand, while you’re mid scroll, and starts to use it.
‘Excuse me… that’s mine!” You say with shock and disbelief.
‘You have had it for ages, it’s my turn.’ He replies.
‘Give it back, it’s not yours! Get your own!” You plead.
‘No!” He shouts and turns away to shield it from you.
Well this is pretty damn unacceptable! You’d better go and inform your boss of what has happened and ask for some assistance!
You call her into the room and explain the situation.
“Well…” she starts “How long had you been using it?”
“Er… that’s hardly the point! It’s mine and I want it back!” You reason.
“Ok, look… how about Mike has it for ten minutes and then you can have it back?”
How would you feel?
Is this acceptable?
Has your boss been reasonable?
All the NO’s!
Your phone is YOUR property!
You are not required to share it!
So why on earth do we demand that children share their belongings?
Ok, scenario two.
What if it is a communal object?
Imagine you are back at work and you are using the office kitchen.
You get yourself a mug, start the kettle and begin filling your mug with instant coffee. You sit down and wait for it to boil.
Mike comes in and, as soon as the kettle finishes boiling, he grabs the handle, pours it into your mug and turns to leave the room.
“Excuse me… that’s mine!” You exclaim.
“No it’s not. It’s everyone’s.”
“But I was using it first, I’ve literally been sitting here waiting for it!”
“This kitchen is for everyone, it does not belong to you. We share the kitchen here.” He says.
“Mike, couldn’t you have waited until i’d finished!? I was only going to be 5 more minutes!” You reply exasperated.
“Well, I wanted it now. So no.”
Well, Mike is a bit of an arse!
Completely unreasonable and down right rude!
We offer each other patience when waiting to use something in the adult world, why don’t we give the same level of patience and respect to children?
I understand that we want our children to grow up being respectful, kind and generous. We want for them to be all of those things because it will help them navigate healthy and happy relationships with pretty much everyone they encounter of their journey of life.
We don’t want them to be disliked.
We want them to be liked and loved.
But we have been getting it so wrong guys!
Forcing it is absolutely not the way to go about it.
In fact, it damages those qualities in people, especially children.
Remember that friend you had that just took you for granted.
Milked all of your kindness from you, took everything you offered (even emotions) and gave nothing in return, or perhaps even betrayed you in some way?
Did this person encourage you to do more for them?
Did this person, who put you in lots of uncomfortable situations, make you feel like you wanted to spend more time with them?
No, I didn’t think so.
Forcing behaviors that are convenient only to the recipient and inconvenient to the ‘giver’ does not encourage the ‘giver’ to continue those behaviors.
It, in fact, encourages them to avoid those scenarios or put up more of a fight next time.
The reality is, no one is required to share.
Unless there are extreme circumstances, no one is required to give up anything they have.
Children are people too.
This is what we should teach our children.
To respect each others belongings.
To ask if it’s alright to borrow something and if the answer is no, that is totally ok.
If you want to teach them to be kind and respectful people, why are we teaching them that it’s acceptable to take things from others, against their will, all in the name of ‘sharing’?
If you ask to play with my phone and I say “Actually i’m right in the middle of something.” Would you think badly of me or respect my decision? Would you force me to give it up or move on? Would you go and find someone with apparent ‘authority’ over me and ask them to ‘make me’ share it with you?
Why do we force our children to behave in a way that does not reflect the real world?
Perhaps if we showed children that we respected and protected their belongings then they would feel much more comfortable sharing?
Perhaps if they knew that their belongings were theirs, to do with as they wish and not at risk of being removed from them and given to someone else, they wouldn’t be so protective over them?
If I, an adult, walked into the park eating a sandwich, am I required to share my sandwich with strangers in the park? No!
Would any well-mannered adult, a stranger, reach out to help themselves to my sandwich, and get huffy if I pulled it away? No again.
So really, while you’re giving me dirty looks, presumably thinking my son and I are rude, whose manners are lacking here? The person reluctant to give his 3 toys away to 6 strangers, or the 6 strangers demanding to be given something that doesn’t belong to them, even when the owner is obviously uncomfortable?