Should Little Kids Be Forced to Share in Preschool?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Most of us grew up being told we had to share with playmates, classmates and, of course, siblings.  But now, some preschools are teaching kids that they shouldn’t share, saying that forcing one child to give up a toy gives the recipient a sense of entitlement.

Mommy blogger Beth Wankel’s son goes to a preschool where this no-sharing policy is in place, and she says it’s good for him.

“If one of the kids has a toy and someone else wants it we are not going to make them give it up until they are totally done,” she says.  “If you ask them to give up a toy and you go and take it from them that’s no different than another kid taking it from them, which we would never allow.”

In practice, only when a child is done playing with something can another child take the toy.  The child asking for the toy learns to wait.  Developmentally that skill is called delayed gratification.  It teaches a child that the world is not set up to automatically and immediately meet all of their needs.

In fact, many preschools that enact the policy, like the Barnard College Toddler Center in New York City, have replicas of the exact same toys to avoid sharing conflicts all together.  The director at the preschool, Tovah Klein says that developmentally toddlers may not be ready to embrace sharing, but that delayed gratification is a developmentally appropriate thing to learn.

“Parents all want their children to share and we do, too,” Klein says.  “We want these children to eventually be generous, cooperative children who get along in the world and get along with their peers, but at 2 they are just figuring out who they are.”

But the school doesn’t force them to share.  Klein explains why it’s just not developmentally possible for many children: “They don’t understand that that other person has thoughts or feelings that might be in conflict with theirs, so what you see much more is grabbing another toy from another child or wanting something that another child has.”

Proponents say the problem with forced sharing is that it shames the child who has the toy and worse, it leads to a sense of entitlement in the recipient.

Wankel says in her blog, “This is not how things work in the real world.  In your child’s adult life, he’s going to think he’s owed everything he sees.  This is already happening in the next generation.  I read a fascinating article about how today’s teens and twenty-somethings are expecting raises and promotions at their jobs for reasons like, ‘I show up every day.’  And she says just because I want your iPad or your sweater I can’t just walk up to you and take it.”

But can a no-sharing rule in preschools prevent a generation of entitled kids?

Po Bronson, author of Nurture Shock, thinks an articulated no-sharing policy goes too far.   He says when we ask children to share, “We’re modeling proper conflict resolution for them so they can do it on their own.”

He adds: “If a kid doesn’t have to share, they’re the one who’s going to develop entitlement...they’re the ones who is going to say I was there first.  I can ignore context, I can ignore people’s feelings.  We are trying to get kids towards not forced sharing, but empathic sharing.  But it’s developmental, so there is a lot of learning how to approach kids with your feelings and your emotions in a way that raises that altruistic and empathic sense of giving for the right reasons rather than for the wrong reasons.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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