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My daughter does not have to share.

I know this goes against one of the cardinal rules of parenting; and, as a result, I’m the recipient of more than a few sideway glances and the occasional passive aggressive, “I guess some children don’t have mommies with manners.” Yes, I’m the “nightmare mommy” at the park who sits on the bench with her cup of coffee, not paying the same hawk-like attention that you are to your child.

But before you rush to judgment, I encourage you to hear me out. Not forcing my child to share does not make me an “anti-sharer.” My approach is just different: I teach my child why she should want to share instead of telling her that she has to share.

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I can’t take credit for the idea. I live in Southern California, which is full of moms determined to be pioneers on all “revolutionary” parenting trends (for better or worse), and belong to a handful of toddler programs that embrace the “no forced sharing” philosophy. The concept itself was popularized by early childhood development guru Magda Gerber. According to her, young children are unable to grasp the concept of sharing, and forcing them to share in an attempt to teach them communal living can actually have the reverse outcome.

When toddlers are told they must share, they can feel a loss of control and ownership and, as a result, have a more difficult time embracing the concept of sharing as they grow into preschoolers and beyond. On the other hand, children who are given the opportunity to resolve their own conflicts may connect the dots, learn to see from another person’s perspective and become more cooperative and charitable towards others -- paving the way to a more enjoyable transition into the rich, active and social world we live in.

So how does this look in practice?

Let’s say my daughter is shoveling sand at the park, and another young girl sits down and tries to take her shovel. Before jumping up to anticipate an outcome, I just observe. Contrary to public opinion, toddlers are capable of conflict resolution. She may relinquish the shovel and move on to another sand toy, or she may grip it tightly until the other child moves on to a different toy. But if neither child seems upset, why should I go over and instigate drama? This isn’t high school; ain’t nobody got time for that.

Inserting myself into a situation where two toddlers have already moved passed the conflict doesn’t seem like a good expense of energy. Plus, by jumping in every time two children want a single toy, you can make them dependent on adults to resolve conflicts. My priority is to promote my daughter’s independence and self-confidence, and allowing her to problem solve is a major way I can do that. I’d much rather sit back and enjoy my cup of coffee before it’s cold.

Sure, there may be some tears as a result of this exchange, but that’s when it becomes a “teaching moment” (a phrase I can’t believe I’m actually using). If the other little girl is upset and starts crying, I don’t make my daughter share. Rather, I step in to calmly narrate the situation to both children. Really compelling stuff like: “You’re feeling sad because you want to play with the shovel, and she’s not done playing with it yet” and “This little girl would like to play with the shovel too. Shoveling is fun.” Since my child has the shovel, she “owns” the object, so she’s the one who has to decide to share. Nine times out of ten, my daughter hands over the object and moves on to something else without a fuss -- unless it’s a cookie, in which case home girl has an iron-clad grip.

It sounds ridiculous but it works. The first time this happened, my jaw nearly hit the floor. My daughter knew I wasn’t going to force her to share, but when I explained that another child wanted it, she made the decision to share.

Toddlers are told what to eat, how to act, what to wear, where to sleep… The list goes on and on and on. When they grab a toy to play with, that’s a choice they made for themselves, and forcing them to give it up, without even the respect of a conversation, can really leave them feeling defeated.

Young children are not inherently mean; they just have a tunnel vision and need to learn empathy, something I was unaware of until I became a mom.. As parents, we have to encourage our children to give a shit about things and people beyond themselves. By speaking to the crying child first, I am teaching my daughter to pay attention to and consider other people’s feelings. The hope is that children who learn the concept of empathy from an early age won’t vindictively hog toys later on. And it’s still a learning process -- especially for me. I’ve definitely ripped a shovel out of my daughter’s hands to give it to another child. But I try to make that the exception, not the rule.

In the end, we’re all looking to accomplish the same thing: raising children who aren’t assholes. The “sharing-is-caring” mom and the “it’s-OK-not-to-share” mom both want their children to become kind and empathetic people who share with others; whether it’s of their time, their support, or their bag of organic yogurt covered pretzels.

So next time you see a tussle at the playground, you may consider approaching the situation differently. Or maybe not, and that’s okay. Just don’t get mad at me for enjoying my hot cup of coffee.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend: It’s OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker and Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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