Monday, September 25, 2006

To share or not to share?

Sharing was one of the first values I remember learning as a child. It was just not acceptable for me to be possessive about my toys and not let other kids play with them. I remember there was even this rule for my birthday party – I was allowed to participate in the party games but if I won, I would not be allowed to keep the prize and it would go the kid who came in second. My mother’s logic was pretty simple – since it was my birthday and I was already getting a lot of gifts, it was only fair that I didn’t get the prizes as well. I used to really hate it – after all, what’s the point of winning if you’re not going to get rewarded for it??

Now that I am older and wiser and also a mother myself, it makes a lot more sense and it is clearer to me what my mom was trying to inculcate in me. I hope I can teach Ayaan the value of sharing as well. So, in the park, when kids come and ask me if they can play with Ayaan’s toys, especially the ones he is not playing with, I always let them have them. Right now, Ayaan is too young to be possessive or protest about his mother’s generosity with his toys but I hope he is getting the subliminal message that it is okay for other people to enjoy his toys as well.

I have always felt good about doing this too and the sweet smiles and polite thank-yous make it well worth it. But it has not been all smooth sailing and there have been recent incidents that really irritated the hell out of me:

Yesterday, a bunch of kids asked me if they could play with Ayaan’s ball and sand toys. Since Ayaan had lost interest in them and wanted to run around the park, I readily agreed and told them I would be back to get the toys and if they needed to leave before I got back to the sand pit, they should just leave the toys there anyway. I came back 10 minutes later and guess what – no kids and no toys!

I have been wondering… Those kids were too young to have come to the park themselves so their parents must have been somewhere around and they must have left with them. Does that mean that the parents thought nothing of it when their kids appeared with someone else’s toys and actually condoned the act of taking those toys home with them? And even if I were to give those kids the benefit of doubt and assume that they didn’t take the toys, it still means that someone else (a kid or even worse, an adult) stole Ayaan’s toys while they were lying unattended in the sandpit. Who does that and what have their parents been teaching them??!

A few days ago, I had another bad experience with this boy and his mother. This kid was about 4 years old and was really rude and obnoxious. To start with, he came to the park with absolutely no toys of his own. He then zeroed in on Ayaan as a soft target and started grabbing his toys without so much as a please or a thank you. I looked towards his mother in the hope that she would control her offspring but it was not to be. She made a half-hearted attempt by occasionally saying things like, “Don’t take all the baby’s toys. Play with him.” But considering that these words were said in an indulgent and half-laughing tone, they had little effect on the kid, who just shook his head and carried on behaving badly. When I stepped in to at least get back the one spade that Ayaan was playing with, the kid had a complete meltdown and then tried to snatch it back. Finally, I just picked up Ayaan and took him to another part of the park and let this completely misbehaved boy have his way with the toys (which included making a really messy slurry of mud mixed with his drinking water in the bucket). After all, if his own mother won’t discipline him, who am I to try?

My last crib is against mothers who don’t encourage their kids to share. Sometimes, Ayaan will get interested in some other kid’s spade or bucket. Most kids don’t have a problem if he picks up something that they are not playing with at that point of time, and even if they do, they are clearly told by their moms to share. But sometimes there are kids who will have a meltdown if Ayaan comes within a foot of their toys and their moms won’t blink an eyelid. And then last week, there was this mother who snatched up a toy before Ayaan could pick it up even though her daughter hadn’t protested.

I cannot for the life of me understand why parents do this. Are they really that paranoid about the transfer of germs or do they value the cheap, plastic toys more than helping their kids to grow up to be kind and generous people?


  1. Looks like a Catch-22 situation sometimes. One can see a look of distress on Ayaan's face in the photo. While it is nice to inculcate sharing and other values, it should be natural, please don't force Ayaan to give up his toys. He'll learn as he grows. Read some of Boo's childhood experiences in sharing.

  2. isnt it funny, how you could get a child, every toy under the sun, and he/she will still wanna play with a rag/mop !?

    My neices favourite toy, the rag. even at 6 :)

    and on a totally unrelated note, is that a wicker sofa !? looks kewl !

  3. [Visitor] I don't force Ayaan to give up his toys. He has not reached the age where he even notices or minds if I lend his toys. In that photo, he wasn't really distressed - more like fascinated with what the other girl was up to. Thanks for the link.

    [Once Again] Should have known that you, of all people, would notice the sofa. Yes, that is a wicker sofa from Wicker World. Any ideas on how to keep wicker clean though? The spaces all get full of dust. I am thinking of buying a vaccuum cleaner...

  4. It takes all sorts to make the world :)

  5. hi,
    what would i say that how parents react like that...
    being a child i can only say that i dont like my chocolates to be shared, i feel really bad when at the mid of having my frens ask me for them and i cant neglet their wish also...

  6. I think the answer lies in the vicinity of parents who are afraid of having any unpleasantness between them and their children, so they let their kids call the shots. Sad, really.

    When a parent lets their child control the relationship, they are abdicating their role, reversing the natural order--and this is why there are so many selfish, confused people in the world. If parent's would just do their job!...

  7. Some people are strange and we just need to ignore them. But that shouldn't ever discourage you from instilling the beautiful traits of sharing that you have been imparting to your son. He will grow up thanking you for making him learn.

  8. I think sharing or not sharing is personal choice but not desciplining ur child is a no no.. It proves not only that ur kid is bad but you as a bad mother too(my opinion).. I wonder those mothers don't realize that when they let their kids get away with everything?

  9. Oh man, I remember my parents doing the same thing - "no prizes at your own party"! Now I think back and think the folks who didn't enforce that rule are so lame!

    Incidentally, you've been tagged!


  10. [Akka] It sure does.

    [Prachi] I think that if taught right, kids can grow up to actually like sharing. Esepcially when they learn that sharing is a 2-way street and often you get to partake in other people's chocloates too!

    [Talena] I couldn't have said it better

    [M] Yes, ignoring is the best strategy. That's why removed Ayaan and myself from the ill-behaved kid's vicinity and moved on to doing something else.

    [Mommyof2] I mention sharing only because it's not so much the sharing per se but the discpline to behave in an orderly, civil and friendly manner around other people.

  11. Oh, I so understand what you mean! Been through that quite a few times with my daughter as well. It is frustrating when your kid is the only one with good manners in a group and is being constantly run over or taken advantage of because of it. Talena put her finger right on the nerve - if only these parents would do their JOB!

  12. I think you did a good think taking the kid to a differnt part. I would be quite at loss how to deal with rude kids. I want to teach my kid to be assertive but not confrontational. Not easy for a kid to master. Hell, it's not easy for me to master.

    About sharing, I am reading this book called "How to raise a brighter child," which argues that we shouldn't force kids to share. Teaching them about sharing is good but it should never be forced. I haven't quit made up my mind on that. I do the normal thing in these cases when I haven't made up my mind. I let my wife deal with it ;)

  13. Sometimes, I wonder what are parents thinking.
    The kids and I have a rule, if they are playing with that toy, no one should snatch it from them, if its on the ground, then the other person can pick it up. They also each have a special toy that when other people come, I keep it away to avoid conflict.

    Now at the playground, I have been known NOT to share to stuff with older unruly kids. Whats great is that my girls became protective mother hens to their baby brother, they actually keep an eye over him and his toys and tell any kid not to misbehave with him!

    BTW--its at age 2 and beyond when they do not want start sharing stuff!

  14. Nice photo of Ayaan and the other kid - very cute and looks natural...I can totally understand your anger - esp with the first incident where they took! his toys and left! I agree with "Visitor" comment - good to teach them sharing but they are still kids - so at their own pace I guess. In this gift obsessed society here esp in the US - you keep gifting each other (or their kids) all the time - so kids have way too many toys - they don't know the value of it most of the time - but still when it comes to sharing it is difficult to get them to do that - they tend to want the toy the other kid is playing with...just the way kids are. At some level they shoudl resolve it amongst themselves but for babies it is important the parents intervene and teach them not to snatch and be unruly...

  15. I think there should be a distinction between fairness and unfairness as well... it's not fair that ayaan should share his toys but the other kids don't give up theirs. He's probably too young to realise right now (and of course I would definitely tell him about other kids not sharing in front of the parents of the kid if possible, but I'm rude that way).

  16. well from the time he could make sense to the age of 16 months now, the brat happily hands his toys over to other kids without batting a lid. literally distibutes them. and it really bothers me when other kids are hostile or selfish or aggressive because they are not traits i want my son to pick up.

    just like you, i pick him up and take him to another part of the room or park so that he doesnt learn any nonsense from them.

    and i agree.. we were always taught to share and i cant understand parents who dont realise the importance of such simple things at a young age. i notice that these are the parents who are obsessed with potty training a 5 day old and making sure that the child learns to eat spinach. where are your priorities people!!!

    i am sure if ayaan and the brat met they would get along beautifully and share!

  17. [Nee] You must have been typing out that comment just when I was replying to the other ones before it :). I will come across and check out the tag but no promises, life is a killer right now.

    [Gettingtherenow] Don't know what parenting logic those parents use to justify their lack of discipline and the resultant bad behaviour on the child's part.

    [Sraikh] I have the same policy. While a kid can come and play with those of Ayaan's toys he is not playing with, I do draw the line at letting them take a toy out of his hand. On the not sharing with the unruly kids, I must try that out some time.

    [Mosilager] You have a point. While Ayaan should learn to share, he should not become a doormat for bullies to walk all over.

    [Mad Momma] Ooh you said the dreaded 'P' word. I have just about started the journey of potty training and it is not going well. Ayaan will sit on the potty when fully dressed but has a fit if we try to put him there sans clothes. And I get such attitude from other mothers on having started so late

  18. i couldn't agree more! really! Sharing was something that was grilled into us right from childhood so i find it upsetting if sometimes tara makes a fuss when someone takes her toys. she does try hard to share though. mostly she's ok about it.
    and y're so right about mothers turning a blind eye to their kid's antics...the other day a lil boy kicked tara in the face and pulled her hair in the park...all in full view of his mom who was, infact, looking on rather proudly! she didn't even bother to stop him! i was SHOCKED! i plan to enroll tara for karate classes as soon as she is old enough for that :)

  19. so true. i remember when my brother was a kid, there was 1 family whose kids used to take & break every toy of his & when we go to their place, there wud be no toy at all taken out for playing- just 1 barbie sitting on the showcase.

  20. [Aqua] Your incident is so much worse. My God, I hope I can keep my cool if some kid attempts to physically assault Ayaan. My initial instinct would be to give the brat a dose of his own medicine - but slapping other peoples' kids in public might not be such a good idea, no?

    [Itching] I really wonder what parents like these think they are doing...I mean, they must have got some logic figured out to justify this kind of behaviour but I can't for the life of me figure out what it could possibly be.

  21. hmmm... whenever i am asked if i like kids, my standard answer is "only if they are well-behaved".
    Now I am beginning to see that its more the parents than the kids that can influence how well-behaved they really are. I agree with Talena on this one.

  22. have u met any parent who expects your kid to share but does not let her kids share?

    Well i have seen those kind.They do not learn by example I suppose-

    The parents need some growing up to do - what say?

  23. [Sudha] Absolutyely. And anyone who doesn't seriously believe in the importance of their influence on their children's behaviour and personality is just being plain lazy.

    [Artnavy] I like that. The parents need to grow up!

  24. Dear Rohini,
    My son loves to share. I have seen him tackle other children who don't approve of sharing and it's fantastic. Children deal sometimes in such mature ways that it makes up for my lack of higher education sometimes! Have a look at my blog - You will find an article of interest there. It's called Dilemma of the Better Son.

  25. i enjoyed reading this post... brought back some childhood memories, lol... i wonder what your son will be like when he is a little older, and starts to appreciate the different people in this world... how he would react, what he would do...? hmmm... maybe there can be a part two to this a couple of years down the line! :)

    PS - Ayaan. what a handsome name...

  26. You are so right! Parents weild an enormous influence on their kids in their formative years (0-5). Even after that, when the kids go to school and come in contact with other kids with different values, it helps them greatly to maintain their own identity if the parents have been continuously taking an active part in their emotional growth and setting positive examples for behavior. Teaching a child good values is a continuous, non-stop process. You can't let even a single opportunity go by. Parents who don't say "No" to destructive/undesirable behavior consistently are often unsuccessful in instilling discipline just because of the inconsistency.

  27. Well... I think some moms just let their kids be. May be they think by letting them have their way they'll develop that crucial survival instincts. There are many examples around us

  28. Hello Rohini,
    I feel bad for Ayaan and that his toys got stolen w/o a glimpse of a remorse. it's especially sad when generosity is being taken advantage of. There is this saying in Africa "it takes a village to raise a kid". Kids learn very early the value of being considerate to each other . However, when the parents themselves do not meet the proper standards (like the one who took off with the toys ), it makes the saying a bit skewed.

  29. [Kaushal] Your son is really evolved compared to some of the brats I meet at the park

    [Sunrise] I can only hope that my efforts will pay off in terms of making his a kind and generous person when he grows up. 'Ayaan' is an Arabic name that means "Gift of God"

    [Gettingthere] Agree. Agree. Agree.

    [Me] But they do have to grow up to live in a society and a society full of adults obssessed with surviving at any cost will not be a very pleasant place to live in...

    [Lova] i wish I had a village!

  30. Hello,

    I have been following your blog from quite sometime. Me and few riends started a new blog sometimes back. I would love you and your other readers also visit us and review us and if you like it then link back to us.


  31. You've been tagged:-)

  32. tagged- pls check my post heights & do something similar

  33. [Aditya] Thanks for dropping by.

    [Mommyof2/ Itching] More tags! I am way behind on the tags...

  34. Only if you have time.. Otherwise no worries:-) I know things get very hard with kid, job & other stuff and you won’t get much time. Its ok if you don’t do it:-)

  35. Children are always told they should share with others. I'm not sure that's realistic, especially in the adult world. But it could be nice. I'd walk over to the neighbors and say, "Hey Bob, how about sharing your Porsche?"

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