I Didn’t Teach My Son How to Share

July 3, 2012 at 6:41 am (Attachment Parenting, General, Positive Discipline)

Yesterday, JJ willingly gave up his spot on the playground, stepping aside from the climbing structure and saying to a girl, “Here, would you like a turn?” He could see she was standing there at the bottom, watching and waiting for him to be done.

A few days before that, he noticed that his 3-year-old cousin was having a hard time sitting still during a presentation at the nature center, and as a suggested solution, he whispered to me, “Mom, Oscar can play with my cars that are in your purse if he wants to.”

When did this happen? When did my son become The Boy Who Won’t Share Anything to Mr. Thoughtful? I think it was around age…? Hm. I don’t think there was magic age. But age is key here.

His moments of consideration are a big deal to me because once upon a time there was a 3-year old JJ who wouldn’t share. Toys were something to be possessed, hoarded, whined about if someone even looked at something he was playing with. I remember when sharing (or lack thereof) was a big “parenting issue.”

Not so much anymore. Now he is almost 6. Now he makes an effort to offer toys and turns.

And why is sharing no longer an issue for us? Was it because he was coached with my motherly choruses of,”Oh, let’s share! We share with friends! Share! You take a turn then she takes a turn! Share! You have one more minute then it’s time to share! Share! Share!”?

No, it’s because he grew up. The difference is now he’s 6 instead of 3. That’s it.

So many “parenting issues” are phases of behavior that a child will naturally outgrow if given support, understanding, help, and acceptance. We support our kids through their difficult stages of development, redirect their energy when necessary, help them find acceptable solutions, and understand that they will outgrow difficult behaviors in their own time. And then we let kids do just that.

Looking back, I see that my parenting efforts surrounding “issues” like sharing were mostly based in fear. I was afraid that my son would never share. That his behavior would always be the this way. Forever. Maybe you have similar fears. That your child will always be The Girl who Hits, or the Boy Who Won’t Use The Potty, or The Girl Who Doesn’t Stay In Bed At Night, or…you get the idea. We’re afraid for the permanence of this behavior and we think we need to do something about it now.

I thought I had to actively teach JJ about sharing, when all I really needed to do was support him in his current level of development and trust that his brain would mature. I didn’t teach JJ how to share. He grew up, and now he’s capable of sharing.

Most challenging behaviors don’t require doing to, they require getting through. Teaching takes time more than anything else.


  1. Positive Parenting Connection said,

    Oh, isn’t that shift so amazing! We are seeing that here too an it’s really lovely. I agree that a lot of the “issues” are fear based, with my first when he was very little I was so afraid that if he cried anywhere in public I would be seen as a horrible mom. I am glad I got over that an.d let my kids feel whatever they need to feel and then guide them from there….interestingly enough when i stopped operating on fear everything was so much easier, flowing and generally happy….

    • Kelly said,

      Yes, Ariadne! It is SO worth it to get over the fear…especially that fear of what other people think! When I can do that, I am much more able to focus on my kids’ needs and meet them where they are, rather than trying to push them where I want them to go. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  2. change5553 said,

    Kelly, I always love your posts. I agree that part of his learning to share is growing up, but I wonder if he would have grown into sharing if he hadn’t had so much coaching from you. Kids learn to speak a language because they hear it for a year or more before “growing into the ability.” Even then, their speech is very elementary until it keeps growing in sophistication. I often suggest to parents that they keep teaching children what we hope they will learn–without expecting them to learn it until the “learning” connects with maturity.

    • Kelly said,

      That’s very true, Jane. If I had done or said absolutely nothing when it came to JJ’s “not sharing,” I’m sure things would look very different now at age 6! I see what you mean about parents providing the foundation for language and behavior and kids will mature into it. As always, thank you for your helpful perspective!

  3. Total FanBoy and a Bit of a Foray Into Psychology « Fatherhood for Geeks said,

    […] This post, in particular, reminds me very much of that similarity: I Didn’t Teach My Son How to Share […]

  4. Jeanne-Marie said,

    Your son’s transformation is also explained by the fact that he has left the plane of “infancy” and is entering the plane of “childhood”. At this stage the child becomes more conscious of his environment and is concerned with moral justice, good vs. bad. It is another stage and one to enjoy. You have shown him well, for he has learned to “share” not from you repeating the word, but from watching you model it with others. Be well and thank you for sharing your parenthood journey.

  5. Sunday Surf: July 15-21 | Old New Legacy said,

    […] I Didn’t Teach My Son How to Share  {Parenting From Scratch via Positive Parenting Connection} I needed this today: “So many “parenting issues” are phases of behavior that a child will naturally outgrow if given support, understanding, help, and acceptance. …I see that my parenting efforts surrounding “issues” like sharing [or potty training] were mostly based in fear.” ~Kelly Bartlett […]

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