Sharing is Caring? Rethinking Whether You Should Encourage Your Children to Always Share

Humans of any age find great import in property. It’s something we buy, sell, loan, borrow, inherit, donate, and steal. It is one of the most controversial objects in a decedent’s estate or a divorce decree. Both what and how much we own determine economic and socioeconomic status. Ownership of property has been shown to be closely linked to concept of self and personal identity.

Sharing is an essential skill that children learn early on, and some are better at it than others. Twins tend to learn this skill earlier than singletons as they are consistently faced with an object that their co-twin has at least equal desire to possess. In early play date settings, it might become clear to the parents that the twin children are more apt to share a toy than the singleton child who has not had as many opportunities to develop the sharing skill.

But simply being a better sharer should not mean that a twin child should be expected to share significantly more than a singleton child would be. Because ownership and possession are so important in one’s development of her sense of self and twins struggle to form their own unique identities, it could be argued that a twin child needs to have exclusive control and possession over certain objects more than a singleton child and that, if she wishes to not share those objects, she should not be forced to.

My kids used to have a weekly play date with their friend Abigail. Prior to the play date, Abigail’s mother would say to her, “Eden and Tal are coming over and they will want to play with every toy in this playroom. If there are any toys you don’t want them to play with, let’s put them in this box and we’ll take the box upstairs to your room.” Then, during the play date, Abigail was expected to share all of her toys that were in the play room.

I loved this approach. It taught Abigail the importance of sharing, but it also showed her that her mother understood and respected her need to have ownership over some objects. Your twin children similarly, and arguably more so, deserve to have ownership over some things – ownership that doesn’t extend beyond the child herself – not even to other family members. If you have to write the child’s name or initial on the tag or on the bottom of the toy, do so.

As a twins’ parent, you will have many battles to resolve; dispute over property does not have to be one of them.