Sharing is not caring.
At least not for one mother, who voiced her objection on social media to her 5-year-old son's sharing his toys with other kids in a park. The reaction? Her words were "liked" nearly 300,000 times, and her anti-sharing message was shared more than 240,000 times.
It turns out, many parents agree that their children don't have to share.
" 'You can tell them, 'No,' Carson,' " Alanya Kolberg said she told her son after he was approached at a Missouri park by other children who wanted to share his toy earlier this year. " 'Just say no,' " she recalled saying.
Hundreds of people applauded Kolberg's anti-sharing message, which went viral in a matter of minutes.
"To me, it makes sense – everyone has choices," Kolberg said. "If someone demands something of you or tries to take something that's yours, you're not required to give it to them."
She encourages her children to develop strong leadership skills, understanding how to say, "No." Plus, she added, 5-year-old Carson ended up sharing his toy with a friend who came to the park after the incident.
The phrase, "Sharing is caring," is usually drummed into children's minds throughout their childhood, but have we gone too far? At what point should they be allowed to make their own decisions about whether they want to share their toys?
"I would argue that the bigger issue is not that we haven't taught children to share, but that we've told them that they have to share," said Crystal Rice, therapeutic consultant at Insieme Consulting, a relationship therapy and counseling company based in Pennsylvania and Maryland. "We've taught them to share because we tell them they should, rather than teaching them to find the value in sharing and do it because they want to."
It's a subtle difference but one that can make a big impact.
Instead of placing the emphasis on the object, focus on the friendship that can be made when you share your toys, Rice said.
Children are born self-centered, and it's up to parents to teach them to be considerate to others, said Eirene Heidelberger, president and CEO of GITMom, a Chicago-based parent coaching company.
"Sharing toys is one of the first steps for parents to teach their kids manners at a very basic level," Heidelberger said. "This progresses into an understanding of taking into account the feelings of others."
In recent years, parents have worshipped and coddled their children to the extent that they enter the workforce self-obsessed and self-entitled, so it's more important than ever that we go back to basics and learn about the importance of sharing, Heidelberger said.
"Yes, it's brutal when your young child has a meltdown because he doesn't want to share his beloved Thomas the Train," she said. "However, by showing patience and offering problem-solving solutions, like taking turns and sharing, we are teaching valuable life skills on how to deal with adversity."
From the time a child can sit up, face a friend and grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing that toy back and forth while saying, "Your turn, his turn," Heidelberger said. That's the first step in learning sharing skills.
If a child gets upset, you can explain that while he may be frustrated, it's his friend's turn. This teaches a child patience.
"When the toy is returned, the mom can follow up with, 'You made your friend so happy by sharing your truck, I'm so proud of you,' " Heidelberger said. "This raises your child's self-esteem because you pointed out his specific good behavior."
But just like anything in parenting, sharing is not always so clear, said Esther Hunt, who tries to find a sharing balance when it comes to her three children, who are 3, 5 and 7.
If one of her children gets a new toy, he or she has the right to say "no" to sharing, said Hunt, a stay-at-home mother and massage therapist in Illinois.
If they're refusing to share just to be mean, Hunt demands that her children share.
But she also doesn't mind having her children experience the disappointment of hearing "no" once in a while when one child doesn't want to share.
And, like the mother at the park, Hunt will also support her child if needed.
"For me, I feel like, if they're at the park, it's an opportunity for them to learn about having a sharing spirit or about being part of the community," Hunt said. "But, we're all trying to figure out how on earth we're supposed to be molding these people to be good citizens on earth. So often, it's fuzzy."