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Am I being a bad parent... by telling my daughter she needs to share more?
One of our readers is tired of playing referee between a big sister and her baby brother.

SHARING IS CARING, but sometimes sharing is boring, or annoying or a total pain, right? Especially if you’re an older sibling with a particularly grabby younger brother or sister in your shadow.

This week, one dad is wondering if three years old is too young to start teaching his daughter some tricky life lessons – not just about sharing with others, but about being kind to younger family members who may be too little to understand the implications of their actions.

Each week in our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting decision, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

This week’s dilemma

My three-year-old is a good sharer when it comes to kids her age at playgroup and preschool, but she usually refuses to share with her new baby brother. Even her discarded breakfast bowl was off limits recently. He is at the stage of wanting to grab and explore everything, and it’s not nice to see it sparking such negative sibling interaction. We know she’ll probably grow out of it… so am I being unreasonable to tell her to share when they’re both still so young?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

No, of course you’re not being unreasonable. Kids can be naturally pretty selfish. But you say your daughter is good at sharing with other kids, and it’s the annoying little brother she has the problem with. At three she’s old enough to understand that babies grab things and she needs to try be patient with her little brother. The sibling stuff can be complicated so I would always let them know it’s ok to feel like the baby/toddler is annoying, but that it’s not ok to be mean.

Yes, you’re being a bit unreasonable. I think every child should be allowed some stuff that’s theirs not to share, kept by the child somewhere safe and played with when other younger kids are not around. The three year old is possibly feeling vulnerable with the arrival of her new brother. One solution is to try to spend some time alone with the three year old and make her feel special. Then explain how much her little brother loves her and how playing with him and showing him how to use toys is fun for both of them. 

You’re not being unreasonable, but it’s a lesson that’ll take work. Sharing with a young sibling not like sharing in playgroup, which is basically taking turns. This is just handing something over to be chewed or bashed, which is understandably a little frustrating for a big sister. It’s not an exchange in the same way, it’s just “your responsibility as an older sibling”. I suspect that the solution is more about persevering with a consistent message about family members being nice to each other. 

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

No – 2

Yes – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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