Being told to share your stuff was one of the first things we all learned in kindergarten.
But one North Carolina mom is stirring up a heated discussion on social media after posting a message to fellow parents telling them that her child should not be expected to share his things – and neither should their children.
Last week Alanya Kolberg took to Facebook after witnessing an encounter her son Carson had with other kids while at the park.
“As soon as we walked in the park, Carson was approached by at least 6 boys, all at once demanding that he share his transformer, Minecraft figure, and truck,” Kolberg wrote. “He was visibly overwhelmed and clutched them to his chest as the boys reached for them.”
According to Kolberg, Carson had brought the toys to share with her friend’s daughter, who they were meeting in the park that day.
Feeling unsure of what he should do, he looked at Kolberg. That’s when she told her son that it was OK to say no. When he did, one of the boys ran to Kolberg and tattled on her son.
She told the boy, “He doesn’t have to share with you. He said no. If he wants to share, he will.”
Her response, she says, garnered a few disapproving looks from parents.
“If I, an adult, walked into the park eating a sandwich, am I required to share my sandwich with strangers in the park?” she asked. “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.”
Kolberg then goes on to explain that she was teaching her son a valuable lesson in that moment – one that fellow parents should think about teaching to their children.
“The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults,” she said. “While I do know some adults who clearly never learned how to share as children, I know far more who don’t know how to say no to please, or how to set boundaries, or how to practice self-care. Myself included.”
Her final message to parents: “The next time your snowflake runs to you, upset that another child isn’t sharing, please remember that we don’t live in a world where it’s conducive to give up everything you have to anyone just because they said so, and I’m not going to teach my kid that that’s the way it works.”
Her post, which was shared over 225,000 times as of Wednesday morning, ignited a conversation among parents.
“There is nothing wrong with teaching them to share AND that they have the choice not to share,” Facebook user Charlene Cortez wrote.
“Balance is important. So I definitely feel that you have a great point,” Georghia James said on Facebook.
However, others were not shy to voice their opposition.
Despite the backlash from some parents, parenting experts Alyson Schafer and Ann Douglas say they agree with Kolberg.
“I think the mother makes a very good point,” Schafer says. “Every parent has the duty to teach their children about sharing, but that’s very different than being obligated to always share everything you own – always – to everyone.”
“Even if the child is a little older, it’s still not reasonable to force the sharing because, in order for sharing to actually be meaningful and for it to take root in that child’s soul, it has to be something of the child’s own initiative,” Douglas said. “What you want is to create the conditions in your kids so that way they’re suddenly – at some point – moved to want to share because it seems like a good idea for them.”
The best ways to make that happen is to practice sharing with your kid and talking about, as well as personal boundaries and the limits of others, Douglas says.
According to Schafer and Douglas, it is just as important for parents to teach children about balance and boundaries in these instances for both themselves as well as in others, just as much as it is to teach them about the act of sharing.
“Saying no is really important to set reasonable boundaries because we want that child to be able to say no when they’re older when they face situations that make them uncomfortable,” Douglas said. “How they learn to do that is by learning through baby steps along the way, that it’s OK to set healthy boundaries in relationships.”
“As humans, our desire is to be social creatures and have relations with one another and the caring of another person is required for our mental health,” Schafer explains. “And in this individualistic society, we don’t work hard enough to try and socialize our kids to be a part of the group. So I do think we need to work harder as parents to help our kids understand that yes, they are individuals and are different from other people and have your own limits and boundaries, but we do need to exercise our muscles to work towards helping the group.”
Schafer added, “The bottom line is that we want to inspire kids to share, not force them to share.”