Sharing doesn’t come easy for anyone, least of all children whose frontal lobes aren’t fully formed yet. But despite the challenges, I’m still a strong proponent of encouraging kids to share. 

Parents and professionals who don’t encourage kids to share say that the concept is too vague and doesn’t respect boundaries. But it is possible to be specific and respect boundaries while encouraging kids to share. 

Here’s why my kids are learning to share:

1. People are more important than things

Sharing might seem strange and vague on the surface. We don’t share our cars or ottomans, some people say. Except that yes, we do. Or at least, I do and I want my kids to be the kind of people who would do so as well. If a neighbor asked to borrow my car, I would likely say yes. We “borrow” furniture all the time–it’s called Goodwill, garage sales and good ol’ fashioned barter arrangements. We share hand-me-down baby clothes with family and friends. We do these things to help people out. I encourage my kids to share because I want them to understand that people are more important than things. 

Related: How to teach your kids to share—without the struggle

2. You can set and respect boundaries while also sharing

Sharing isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. It is possible to encourage kids to share while also teaching them to respect boundaries. One way to do this is by reminding children the importance of asking for permission and teaching them to wait for consent, while also helping kids set reasonable limitations on sharing so they have autonomy as well. 

For instance, on a recent family vacation, my kids both wanted to use the camera to take photos while sightseeing. After encouraging them to come up with some system for sharing the camera, they decided that they would each get to use it for 30 minutes at a time before passing it off to the other person. If one of them wanted to use the camera when it was outside their allotted time, they asked if they could use it and waited for permission. Similarly, the child whose turn it was with the camera sometimes agreed and didn’t. Boundaries were respected while sharing was encouraged. While there were a few squabbles, for the most part, they established and respected boundaries while also sharing the coveted camera.   

3. Sharing doesn’t have to be vague

Some people who don’t do sharing say it’s too vague a concept. But it doesn’t have to be. You can set time limits on the amount of time to use a favorite train set or the amount of time a child can use the crayons. In fact, we set time limits on sharing in the adult world all the time. For instance, at the gym, there are time limits on how long equipment can be used. 

We can also let our kids have one or two special things that they don’t have to share. For my kids, it was their blankies. They didn’t have to share their blankie under any circumstances, but that also meant keeping it at home if they didn’t want to share.

Related: We shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for kids acting like kids 

Even if the concept of sharing can sometimes be nuanced and vague, that’s okay. The world is filled with gray areas and nuance. It’s important to help our kids understand this while also teaching them core values, like the importance of sharing

4. Sharing impacts how we view the world

I am a strong proponent of things like paid parental leave, affordable child care, universal healthcare, and a minimum wage that is actually a living wage. All of these things depend on people in our society sharing their resources so that others can have the things that they need. I am totally fine with this because, ultimately, I believe in things like equity, justice and fairness. Encouraging kids to share now when the stakes are low establishes the framework for how they will view the world as adults when the stakes are higher. 

5. Non-attachment can lead to greater happiness

While I’m not necessarily a practicing Buddhist, I do ascribe to many tenets of Buddhism, including the idea of non-attachment. Basically, non-attachment means that we can enjoy things while we have them, but reminds us not to hold on so tight to things. Non-attachment means recognizing that everything in life—toys, iPhones, cars, and even life itself—is temporary. Encouraging kids to share is a way to follow the principle of non-attachment in a practical way. In doing so, we are better able to deal with loss and adjust to the ever-changing nature of life, including the discomfort of sharing. 

Related: How to ease your toddler’s separation anxiety: 5 tips to better attachment

6. Sharing teaches patience, friendship and teamwork

It might sound naïve and old-fashioned, but sharing also teaches important skills like patience and teamwork. It might also build friendship too. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we “force” kids to do anything or that we disrespect their boundaries. What I am suggesting is that we encourage kids to share that we teach them how to share respectfully and responsibly.