To share or not to share that is the question. Should we force our children to share?
Most, if not all parents want their children to share their toys with other children. By sharing their toys, our children learn how to be kind to others — definitely a noble goal.
But I read this article last night that made we wonder whether forcing our children to share their toys is actually counter-intuitive to what we want to teach our children.
Training Them from a Young Age
I'm a strong advocate of the free enterprise system. I believe that it's the best foundation for liberty and prosperity in a nation. I want to teach my children those same principles, which include the right to private property and ownership, without fear of interference by those in authority.
Gary North, author of the article I read, reminds readers that "the first eight years are the crucial ones in the development of the child’s perception of things." As such, it's during those early years that we as parents can set our child on the path to the way of thinking they will have as adults.
So what are we teaching our children when we force them to share their toys with others? I'm not talking about asking our children to share; I'm talking about enforcing a policy of "If you live in this house, you must share your toys with everyone".
Suggested Sharing vs. Enforced Sharing
In a home where enforced sharing is practiced, a child does not learn the concept of ownership. The child instead learns that he doesn't really own anything, and consequently no one else does either. Furthermore, he begins to understand that he has a right to take any toy he sees that he wants to play with. To him, there is no such thing as private property.
In his article, Dr. North explains that "If the parent continually interferes with the right of the child to do what he wants with his own property, he is setting up the child for every kind of collectivist panacea.…He will learn that "yours" really is not that fundamental a concept, since "mine" is not enforced either…"
On the other hand, in a home where sharing is suggested, but not enforced, a child learns about ownership and personal responsibility. The parents teach the child about both the benefits of sharing, as well as the negatives of not sharing. If the child chooses not to share after listening to the pros and cons, he suffers the social consequences. This method not only emphasizes the concept of personal property and teaches a child that there are consequences to their actions, but also imparts a respect for the property of others.
Dr. North brings up some interesting points, and his article is definitely food for thought.
To teach ownership and responsibility or force sharing your toys, that is the question now.
What about you? Have you ever considered the implications of suggested sharing and enforced sharing?