Consider this scenario. Imagine someone tells you that you have to share your spouse (please forgive me if you’re into that sort of thing.) Most of us wouldn’t happily hand them over to someone else. We would put up a fight and cry “MINE!” until you backed off. So think of your child’s possessions as important as a significant other or another item you have strong feelings about and don’t want to share.

Before we have friends over, I ask my 5-year-old if there’s anything he is feeling especially protective over that day so that we can put it away before our guests arrive. This is to avoid any fighting over that particular toy. I want our playdates to be a positive experience and frankly, it’s no fun having to referee the whole time. He doesn’t enjoy himself if he has to police his stuff and I’m not a fan of the playdate where the kids fight the whole time.

Before I had kids I totally understood why many moms believe we have to force our kids to share. But now that I’ve been on the mommy clock for a few years, I no longer believe that. I don’t force my kids to share and here’s why:

Sharing is a really hard concept for kids to grasp. They feel strongly and protective over their belongings. They utter the words “mine” often throughout the day- and I get why. In the moment, whatever it is they are feeling strongly about, is their most prized possession.

It’s OK for kids not to share and here’s the alternative: taking turns. When your child is playing with friends and a brawl breaks out over a particular toy, try this approach instead. If you know who was playing with the object first, calmly approach the other child with a different toy and say “Jimmy isn’t quite done with his turn yet. Why don’t you play with this one and you can be next with the other toy.” Odds are that Jimmy will be done in just a minute (or less) and the next friend can have a turn. And at the same time, model for the child who was playing with the toy first, by giving him the vocabulary to say “I’m not done with my turn yet.”

Taking turns and speaking up teaches valuable life skills. Patience, understanding, assertiveness and more. I don’t want my kids to think that everything could be taken from them at any moment and that they should let it happen.