What do sharing and consent have in common? They have in common everything necessary. Once you understand this, practising sharing brings a lot of ease. Consequently, it also brings comfort to receiving.
If you, like me, grew up in a community (brown community) where receiving something sits heavy within. And makes you feel as if you must return what you received by its value in some way or form. Then consent is more important than knowing when to say yes or no.
Let’s dig into what sharing and consent have in common, why and how that can help us navigate life.
Food – What do sharing and consent have in common? Everything!
I wouldn’t say I like sharing my food. Cooking and serving others the food I made for them brings me absolute pleasure. But I prefer not to share the food off my plate.
You best believe I ordered it all for myself if I order a few things. There is already a plan in my head for how it will go together and in my mouth.
Although, I do enjoy tasting the food off other’s plates. 😂 It’s priority preferences, yeah…
Now, some people don’t mind that, like my partner. He is happy to share and even save some of the best bits of things I love, like the marrow bones in lamb curry!
I appreciate that of him, and I will smack his hand if I find it attempts to pick off my plate. (I do not condone abuse or violence, a playful hand smack is in order here.) Haha 😂 Subsequently, I can also just glare.
Where do sharing and consent come in?
Well, I always ask before I pick off his plate. I know his boundaries because he is comfortable enough to be honest about them regarding food.
So, consent comes part and parcel with boundaries. Boundaries are set to result in positions in relationships understood.
With regards to sharing too. Boundaries around what is and isn’t acceptable regarding food sharing must be verbalised in that setting.
It does not mean I must share mine with him if he shares his food with me.
I am uncomfortable sharing my food, whereas he is, and therefore two very different experiences.
We cannot just throw them both under the same umbrella of understanding.
Individuals should have autonomy over their choices and mutual respect for others and their own.
Children – What do sharing and consent have in common? Everything!
Children and sharing anything became something challenging to navigate for us. Effectively, we came into that understanding from past experience, conditioning and generational views.
Most of which don’t make much sense now. Just like how we will not force our child to apologise, but rather build the understanding of apologising, we will not be forcing them to share for any reason.
Not because they have more than others, because someone else shared with them, or because it is the kind thing to do.
We will teach the kindness of sharing, but not the forcing of doing it just because it is kind.
Sometimes sharing for kindness can go against personal boundaries.
That’s where consent holds all the power. Here are some books about consent. I also have a children’s comprehensive boundaries book in my shop for purchase in pdf, which covers emotional, physical and mental boundaries for kids.
Attaching negative narratives to behaviour to coerce sharing.
Like wastage, teaching children not to waste because others don’t have food. Instead, teach children the truth about why others are living in the conditions they’re living in.
How many adults forced to share as children live with so much resentment in adulthood? How that resentment can lead to hoarding power, stealing and hiding what one has.
Show them the number of adults who fear their belongings being taken away. Consequently, their positions are taken away, and their wealth is shared without them wanting it that way.
Teach them of the stolen land and the selfish civilisation. Give them the knowledge freely so they can decide how best to be a people with good intentions and heart.
Toys – Sharing toys does not equate to whether a child is kind or friendly.
If a child finds it difficult to share, it can be just one aspect of their actions where they’ve made a different choice from the socially acceptable norms. Who set up these rules and standards? I think the time to question them comes upon us now, and I love it.
Everyone walks through life with individual experiences; therefore, their behaviour reflects their experiences. Each person’s choices and individual behaviours must be seen as theirs and not as a reflection of our preconceived perceptions based on ourselves.
Our perceptions are based on bias most times.
We have two simple requests.
- Always ask (Always!)
This means even if the toy is yours and someone else who isn’t familiar with asking or younger has it, you ask for it back. Sometimes this is complex; the other child can say no and cry, and an adult can be asked for assistance. A child does not have to be responsible for another child’s distressed feelings. If the toy belonged to them and was taken without permission, they have every right to want it back immediately. The immense feeling this causes the other child is the responsibility of the guiding adult to sit with them in a safe space.
There are, of course, a lot of nuances. Using the reasoning of the child being younger and crying, so can they please keep the toy, and you will get it back when they forget or later can cause the beginnings of anxiety and resentment in such situations. Sometimes as an adult, you may not have the capacity to deal with that, and you can ask for understanding, especially as a mum alone at home with little ones. If it is not a regular occurrence and your little one can understand, then I see no harm in it. But regularly, these responses encourage hiding, avoidance and dislike between siblings and friends.
If a child is playing with a toy and leaves it down, one must ask again if they are done with it. No assumptions must be made when dealing with any belongings, whether personal or communal.
Some ways that may help navigate these situations
Distractions are also a short-term solution which suppresses emotional expressions in children, and we encourage emotional expressions. This is after you have already tried to ask for it back. When faced with resistance from a child who does not wish to return something, this is what I do, which I learnt through Hand in Hand parenting.
- I place my hand over the toy and the hand of the child gently and say,’ I can’t let you have this toy; it belongs to Tom.’ “You have to give it back.’ and repeat them.
The child might scream and cry, throw a tantrum and eventually let go of the toy. You return the toy, hold them, and be there for them in that emotional expression. It is perfectly okay for them to feel through this experience. You can share understanding and empathy. You do not need to fix it or provide solutions. They always release it all and then move on if you hold that safe space of understanding.
Children should never feel responsible for the feelings of others. Some adults resent the other child and that child’s parents, especially if they are of that ‘sharing is caring’ mentality. This comes out in their behaviour and actions towards the child and family afterwards with glares or passive-aggressive remarks. If you are a parent who feels this way sometimes, you need to sit with those feelings and take accountability for them. There can exist a lot of healing for you in there.
You are not responsible for teaching anyone else how to share or be. You are only in control of your behaviour and actions.
The following request is:
2. Respect the reply
Take a no for a no and a wait for a wait. We do not negotiate, manipulate or try to convince.
If a toy belongs to someone, it doesn’t matter if anyone had it first. It is the sole right of the owner to determine what goes when it comes to their belongings. As adults, no one gets in your car and says, ‘Sorry, I was here; first, it’s now mine.” Imagine that? But here, we expect children to do the same thing with their belongings. And no, they are not just toys! They are their first belongings and possessions.
To avoid someone not having anything to play with, we buy communal toys which we say belong to us. These toys we have total control of these. So we can tell who we would like to share them with and who can use them. This makes navigating sharing with friends and family so much easier. It also provides an excellent example of modelling the behaviour and showing sharing safety.
No one wants their things broken when they share them with someone. So communal toys also build trust in those who can share and play safely before children are comfortable sharing their personal favourites.
The same goes for taking turns with communal equipment and toys. Always ask and then accept the answer. A child will rarely play on something for a very long time. If a child does and limits are set, then a safe space for those emotional expressions must be held. Setting limits can be a brilliant tool to use in these circumstances. Subsequently, ensuring that they understand that they understand the requests of public spaces and taking turns. Taking turns can be like sharing, but it is quite different on its own. On the same spectrum but with different levels and spaces.
If we must add a third one which is something we encourage as a whole.
3. No physical touch
There will be more nuance to this as they grow up, and it will change with understanding. There will, of course, be self-defence talks and exceptions. But we always aim to cause no harm. So no grabbing, no taking from someone’s hand, you wait till they hand it over, no pushing and pulling etc. In this instance as well, asking is very important. May I push you on the swing, give you a hug, take the toy and so on?
Play – What do sharing and consent have in common? Everything!
No one should be forced to play with anyone if they do not want to. Forcing children into interactions can pose counterproductivity.
Not wanting to play with someone does not equate to whether a child is kind. A simple no should suffice. Not everyone wants to have to explain every time they don’t feel like doing something. Children often don’t have elaborate reasons, and if they do, when in particular play time with you, they will express it when ready. Creating those safe spaces for them will provide the encouragement they need.
We also never want to guilt children into doing things or bribing them. Bribery and guilting is a whole other topic and blog.
Manipulating children by holding something they really want for ransom certainly needs more talking about.
Let’s break down what sharing and consent have in common.
Consent and body autonomy are of utmost importance when you practice asking and respecting the response you receive—knowing that you can say no and that it will be respected. Having this kind of environment decreases anxiety and fighting for toys in group settings or when families have friends over. It creates a safe inner environment and plays a significant role in confidence and self-worth. This encourages mutual respect and therefore leads naturally to kindness.
That kindness will lead to more comfort in sharing when one knows they’re doing it entirely of their will, void of preconceived social norms or coercion.
This is not an exhaustive conversation on this topic, and I cannot capture all the nuance of every individual experience and situation. This is just an introduction to our views regarding consent and sharing for anyone who wishes to question more, heal and do the work unpacking these values we teach our children.
Boundary: Feel free to open discussion in the comments; I and no judgment, bullying moderate, name calling or assumed accusations would be tolerated.
You can visit my other blogs here; there are two blogs with ten steps to set healthy boundaries which can help navigate such sharing rules with others. There is also one on crying, which can be helpful with unlearning how you respond to crying through passed traumatic relationships with emotional expression.
Lots of love,