“I have three girls. Whitney is ten, Brenda is eight, and Carissa is four. Like most parents, I have a real fear about this next phase of parenting, especially with my ten-year-old.”

“Whitney had a bag of popcorn and that Brenda asked for some. Whitney said no. This is really bothered me because my eight-year-old is so generous with her sister, almost to a fault. So I intervened and told Whitney that she had to share. She finally did.”

“When I thought through the incident I knew I hadn’t done the right thing, but I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. So I asked Anne Marie what she thought I should do. I was surprised when she told me to think about not always intervening with my authority and forcing my kids to share with each other. This was a frightening prospect for me. Asking me to give up my control?”

“The next day another incident took place. Whitney had some mints and Brenda asked for some. Whitney said no, and Brenda immediately looked to me for help. I told Brenda, ‘If Whitney doesn’t want to share with you, that’s fine. Sharing must come from our hearts or it is not real sharing.’ Brenda protested for a few moments, and I went about my business.”

“A little later my ten-year-old came to me. ‘It’s okay if I don’t share, Mom?’ She asked. ‘Is that what you said?’ I replied, ‘Yes, that’s what I said.’ Whitney left, but at that very moment I could see something had changed in her heart. Five minutes later she was generously sharing her mints with Brenda.

“The next day, all I heard from the two girls was: ‘Can I borrow your this?’ ‘Can I play with your that?’ I was shocked. Noncoercive sharing was foreign to my children. It was foreign to me. Yet there they were doing it.

“I called by ten-year-old aside and asked, ‘Whitney, why are you so willing to share all of a sudden?’ ‘Mom,’ she said, ‘this is how I always felt, but you never let me do it without telling me I had to. I wanted to show you how I felt, but you never let me do it without making me. I wanted to show you that I know how to make a wise decision and do the things you and Daddy taught us.”

Source: On Becoming Pre-Teen Wise by Gary Ezzo

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