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4 Moms Answer Questions About Sharing, Church, and Extreme Honesty

The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are answering reader questions.

How do you teach sharing without forcing it?

I have shared my views on forced sharing before, and I stand by those and believe them strongly, even though I have been called “selfish” for them. (Thanks, “anonymous”.)

We have plenty of toys that belong to the whole family, like the Wii and the trampoline, so of course those must be shared. One thing we also do not force is “taking turns” as I have seen some parents enforce it. If little Billy is practicing back flips on the trampoline, and little Sarah comes along, we don’t make Billy “take turns”. Sarah must wait until Billy is through with his practice. There are plenty of hours in the day when no one is on the trampoline, and we won’t allow Sarah to dictate Billy’s schedule.

On the other hand, if Billy and Sarah are playing together on the trampoline, they must give each other equal time and opportunity. (If this cannot be worked out among themselves and Mama must intervene, the trampoline is given a time out.)

This works exactly like it does in the adult world. If I go into Walmart and see that someone is using my favorite shopping cart, I do not go to that person and whine, “It’s my turn! Share! MAMA!!!” I wait until the cart is available, and if it isn’t available on my schedule, that’s my tough luck.

If one of our children doesn’t want to share a privately owned toy, he may play with it in solitude. Children soon learn that it is fun to play together, and they will share their privately owned toys if they wish to be in the company of others. If they like solitude, and want to keep the private possession private, there is no harm that I can see in that.

Our 16yo son recently bought several different Rubik’s cubes and he doesn’t share those with anyone, nor do we expect him to. It is private property. I also do not share my cell phone or laptop or glasses with anyone else. I own them. They are mine. If I know of a case that compels me to voluntarily share those, then, of my own free will, I may make that decision. Wouldn’t it be ludicrous for someone to force me to share those? How would you feel if it was said that you must let your pastor play with your cell phone for the duration of his visit to your home? Why is it different with toys children have saved for and purchased with their own money?

Interestingly, our children are not selfish or greedy. They do understand property rights, though.

What sort of church services do you attend? How involved do you require the children to be? And at what age do you leave the decision up to them?

Our family attends Bible class and worship assembly on Sundays and Bible class on Wednesday evenings. We keep the children with us during the entire worship assembly, even when “children’s church” is available. You can read our thoughts on “children’s church” here.

We expect everyone, from infants to teens, to stand, sit, sing, pray, and listen when the worship leader says to stand, sit, sing, pray, and listen. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an impossibility.

Here are some tips for keeping children quiet and still in church, and our eBook, 4 Moms of 35+ Kids Answer Your Parenting Questions, has a handy printable for taking notes during the sermon. It is done with easily recognizable pictures, so even our toddler is able to use this.

Church attendance is non-negotiable, no matter the age.

How do you handle when a young child points out someone’s differences, like saying a little person has a big head? Or a woman talks like a man? Or someone is “fat”?

Hoo-boy. I feel for ya on this one. We have one that was gifted at an early age with what we like to call “extreme honesty”. She eventually matured and learned discretion, but until then your only hope is to run like the wind in the opposite direction of big-headed people when that child is with you!

Now, be sure to see which questions The Common Room and Life in a Shoe answered.

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Comments

  1. You have a favorite Walmart shopping cart? ;-)

  2. Hmmm. I’ve been vacillating between your “property rights” position and my own “it’s just a stupid toy, and that’s your brother. You weren’t using it! Don’t you love your brother?” thinking. I know. It’s bad.

    For now, we just don’t have any toys or furniture. I made a big bonfire out of all of it the last time the argument broke out. They’re fighting over sticks and wildflowers now, instead. ;-)

    OK, I’m kidding. I am really, really out to lunch on sharing, though. I’m not 100% sure what our policy is going to finally be. Right now it’s closer to yours, but the little rascals keep trading toys so they don’t have to ask for permission, then they forget what they traded, and I don’t know which stuff is whose anymore. Sigh. Maybe I will just build a bonfire.

  3. Melinda says:

    At what age do you being training infants to sit quietly through church? And how do you train them for that? (I have a six-month-old daughter.)

  4. Katherine says:

    Oh, how timely is your answer about kids in church. I went back and again read your link about “children’s church.” Our conviction is to keep our kids with us, too. We have attended a new church four times, and this week received an email from the pastor asking us to explain why we do, and making it clear that our kids should not be in the service. We have 4 under 4 and we are working VERY hard to train them to worship in church. We are (were?) planning to join this church, partly because it is one of the most family-discipling church in the city, and the pastor is very intent on preaching God’s word accurately (and discipling his own children well). What should we do? If this church won’t let us in, no church in the city will (we are in a very unchurched, family-unfriendly city with no “FIC”-affiliated churches). But if our (quietly-held, as non-distracting as possible) convictions cause contention in the church body, we are willing to move on. We also can’t compromise on this conviction (for our family only, obviously–we don’t expect that others would have the same conviction). I’ve been torn up about this all week. Our family views the Body of Christ as something special to be protected, and we know we NEED fellowship and support (especially during this chaotic time with so many young children). We are feeling that there is no place to belong.

    • Picking my jaw up off the floor. He sent you an EMAIL?? That’s just beyond egregious. Wow. Praying right now for a solution for you. Oh, wow.

      • Katherine says:

        Let me clarify–he was very polite in asking us about our reasoning, but made it clear that the church was not “family-integrated.” My husband is concerned about how tone can be misinterpreted by email, so he has scheduled to phone the pastor tomorrow. We want to get it settled ASAP to we know what we should do on Sunday. We don’t want showing up to church (with our kids) to appear contentious.

        • It’s just so…I dunno. What kind of church doesn’t even offer the option? How could you possibly be in the wrong just for bringing your children to worship alongside you? What a strange world we live in. Very strange.

          • Katherine says:

            Many churches are concerned about disruption and about the service becoming chaotic instead of reverent. But we all know that. One church we visited (back when I had a 2 yr old and infant) required that we sit in the foyer and listen on closed circuit because they didn’t want children disrupting the videotaping. Another allowed the kids but required we sit in the back row (which we do anyway). We are doing our best to not disrupt, but with so many littles, I have a guilt hanging over my head for every sound they make. We are trying to implement the suggestions from the 4 Moms, but it is slow going, as expected.

            • We had a similar struggle at a past assignment (we are military). The pastor even understood why we would want to keep the kids in church with us, and was happy to see us teaching and training our children. The problem? He was so easily distracted that just knowing our kids were there stressed him (we had trained them well, they sat quietly, and if there was an issue they were quickly removed). It also seemed that others there viewed us as challenging the system, and didn’t like that, we did not want to cause conflict or grief. We ended up traveling 2 1/2 hours every other Sunday to a FIC. We are thankful for a local church where we are welcome to worship together as a family.

          • I feel like churches are missing the point when they aim for a reverent (as in quiet) service. The early church met in peoples’ homes and I’m sure resulted in some crowded, distracting and noisy times of worship. I’m not suggesting we give up on sitting in some orderly fashion and attempting to quiet the youngsters, but you have to work with what you have. If you have young ones in your congregation, that is good news for your congregation! It reminds me of how I often catch myself thinking of all the work and staging we’d have to do to our house if we ever tried to sell it. And wouldn’t we be better off to get the sewing desk out of the dining room… etc. And then I remember, we have to LIVE in this house because it is where we LIVE. What’s the point in staging our house to the point we aren’t really living in it? What’s the point in staging our worship service to the point we aren’t really focusing on worship?

  5. I am not sure what our policy on sharing is yet, but I enjoy reading your thoughts! As our children are quite young, we don’t really have many things that are private property yet.
    As for very honest children, our policy with our (then) 3 year old was ‘We don’t talk about how people look please. It is rude.’ The very loud talker is now five and will wait till we are in the car and then tell me if she saw an ‘interesting’ looking person.
    Our current three year old (male) is in that stage now too. A lovely group of old ladies taking a walk unfortunately heard ‘them ladies hab babies in their bellies’, and another man ‘him wear lady shoes’. I wanted to sink into the ground, but we just keep saying that we don’t talk about how people look. I’m very open to hearing other people’s ideas about this too though!!

  6. I never read the 4 Moms post on where you worship, and I did a little happy dance when I saw you were members of the church of Christ! :) My husband and I are first generation members coming out of Catholic and Lutheran/misc. denominational upbringings, so we get to argue with our families and the rest of society, haha.
    We are the only young family in our congregation (and will likely get some comments if we keep procreating!) It is one of our biggest frustrations, but also a good motivator to get some families through the door and come join us!
    Your original post on sharing made a light bulb switch on in my head, but I have yet to implement anything. I sequestered all the toys onto the front porch (enclosed) as a consequence of them not getting picked up… Once they earn the toys back, I’m thinking some new ground rules are in order.

  7. At first (i read your original post on sharing) i was like yeah no forced sharing! But then i thought okay you want to cultivate a heart of gratitude and as in the bible He doesnt want us to give under compulsion, so thats good but them theres the law and the sinful heart. I am not inclined to obey the speed limit if im in a hurry and feel the law is a hinderance. (Maybe i didnt manage my time) but if i dont say “everyone must share” perhaps the uncultivated selfish heart will simply not do it. So i hope that im teaching in a way that sharing is a goal and joy but sometimes rules are in order esp if i see an unconcerned child..so ‘forcing’ or rather enforcing the “everyone shares” rules may be necessary. We own nothing in fact the only thing God gave us to hig for our selves are our spouse. I think ownership is good but kids much understand nothing is ours and everything is God’s ultimately otherwise we raise stingy little people.

  8. So in other words i hope you share its not mandatory but if you refuse to be generous then i will “enforce” (gently) the sharing law. Only if it robs others.

  9. Thank you for all your posts on keeping kids in church; I go back and re-read them often, just to help keep me going!

    Our 5-month-old basically hasn’t stopped crying since she was born…well, whenever we’re in public or I’m trying to get her to sleep! Last week was a tough church week with her and I ended up sticking her in the nursing room at the back of the nursery so she’d fall asleep where it was quiet. I was incredibly discouraged, but then I watched my almost 3-year-old run up to our pastor for a hug and realized she had made it through the hour and a half service just fine–even though I went through the same song and dance as she grew up.

    Of course, I’m hoping we can get to a point where she doesn’t shout things like “All done!” or “We made it!” when Pastor finishes preaching….

    All that to say, thank you for the encouragement and all you do!

  10. I just wanted to let you know that you crack me up. I’m still chuckling at the “run like the wind in the opposite direction of big-headed people” comment. ;)

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