There's been some talk out in the blogosphere about forced sharing and the danger of entitlement. After taking a few days to gather my thoughts, here are my conclusions...
First of all, we have to remember that children are little people. They have desires, ideas, intentions, emotions…all just like we do. Sometimes, it’s easy to think they should be robots. We tell them what to do and they do it (or else). We grown-up civilized folks know that sharing is good and we want our children to be like Jesus who gave EVERYTHING so we naturally want to tell them to give too. So we do. We tell them to share and expect that they do it right away.
However, if we stop and consider things from a Biblical perspective, there’s more going on than just the act of giving what you have to someone else who wants it. Parents can choose to look at the entitlement issue, but I think it can be more positive and more like Christ-training if we look at it from yet another angle.
God loves a CHEERFUL giver, but any parent or teacher can tell you that USUALLY, when forced to share, a child is less than cheerful. They don’t understand why the other child’s needs and/or wants are more important than their own. In fact, I think most adults would have a hard time answering that question if the child were able to articulate it in the moment. Of course we want children to learn to prefer others above themselves, and to be gracious and generous, but those are concepts that takes a LOT of time to develop and it’s a work that only the Holy Spirit can do in their hearts. It cannot be forced. It should be modeled, talked about, praised, encouraged, but shouldn’t be forced.
So, what should we do? We teach children how to pursue their own desires while respecting that another child has desires too. We teach them to talk to each other instead of tattling or fighting over a toy. We teach them to stop and think about what it is that they want to happen, communicate that to the other child, and then together, they should come up with a suitable solution. If they are unable to do that on their own, or if they reach an impasse, it’s the teacher or parents job to simply facilitate the discussion without forcing them to do something that ultimately won’t please the Lord anyway.
If , in the end, one child refuses to share and the other child is disappointed, it really is ok. God will convict the selfishness when the time is right and will soften that child’s heart when he or she is ready to respond. He will complete the work that He began in them and will make them more like Christ every day. The child who is disappointed learns that only God is faithful and that people can choose to do things that really hurt and upset us. We must forgive, and love anyway because that’s what Jesus does for us.
I think that all of these things are much more valuable lessons that we as parents and educators can focus on, rather than arguing over forced sharing (which isn’t really sharing at all) and entitlement.