When we are little, we are told to share. We are a “good girl” or “good boy” when we shared, even when it is not by choice and we are left feeling defeated. As a parent we want our kids to be giving, to share with others, to be seen as “sweet”, “good”, etc… How many times have you witnessed a parent/caretaker (or been the parent) who steps in when their child does not want to share their toy, take the toy away, tells the child they have to share, then stepped away when that child cries? I have been on both sides. How often do you share as an adult? How would you feel if you were talking on your phone or working on your computer and someone came up, took it away and started to use it? I don’t know about you, but I would not be too happy. Yet we expect our little people in our lives who have not developed all those adult rational thinking skills we have to share freely.
So how does this forced sharing (and any other people pleasing acts) hurt us? When we praise, we teach our kids to do “good things” for “good words”, not for doing “good things” because it is the “right thing” to do. As kids grow that have been living off of praise, they look for peer recognition and for praise. They do things to make friends happy, often doing things they really don’t feel right about, but they need that praise to feel “good enough”, to be that “good girl” or “good boy”. As they grow into an adult, they continue to seek people that will feed them the praise that allows them to know they are “good”. Always seeking extrinsic values.
Now, have you ever witnessed a parent/caregiver (or been the parent) that observed a child not wanting to share, the parent/caretaker steps in, asks the child playing if the child is done with the toy and if not, telling the other child that they will have to wait a little bit until the other is done and then redirects? Or have you seen a parent/caregiver just let the children solve the problem on their own? When a parent or caregiver uses words that model respectful language, one that allows a child to have autonomy, children look within for that intrinsic value. As they grow up, they have peer relationships that are much healthier because this person looks within, they are not looking to please others just to get praise. As they grow into adults, they seek relationships that are enriching, where they can be authentic, and where they feel valued for being who they are, not by what they do.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing that in the end, when she makes a choice, she is the one that has to deal with the outcome, good or bad. I want her to understand that while being selfish is not respectful to herself or others, she does not have to share everything…especially herself as she grows up. My hope is that she does well in life not to please me, but to please herself. My wish for her is to be able to do well and say, “I am proud of myself”, not, “I made my mom proud”, because THAT is a given and she will know it!