The copy of the book I reviewed was a free advanced reader copy that I obtained through the bookstore where I used to work.

It's OK Not to Share
It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids

By Heather Shumaker

Buy the Book


I was a little surprised when I read this title. As a child I was pushed (and as a result have been pushing my child) to share. It’s something we all have to learn to do from an early age, right? Otherwise we grow up to be selfish, entitled, spoiled brats.

It turns out that isn’t the case at all.

This book is all about the free play philosophy of child-raising. Basically, the book (and philosophy) maintains that children learn a host of invaluable interpersonal skills through self-directed play with minimal adult intervention. I found the book completely eye-opening. Of course, the book is written for typically-developing, mainstream children, but I still found so many things that were applicable to my high-functioning ASD child.

Despite the controversial book and chapter titles, the main point of the book is that children should be allowed to make their own decisions, accept the consequences, and that parents should help kids learn to mediate the conflicts that may arise from those decisions. Personally, that is the kind of idea I can get behind. I like the idea of my kid making independent decisions about who he plays with and for how long he uses a toy. I also like the idea of learning how to defend those decisions in a kind and respectful manner. Because as the book teaches, yes, you can tell little Billy you don’t want to play with him. You cannot tell him you don’t want to play with him because he’s a poop-head.

This books is not for everyone and will not appeal to every family or be applicable in every single situation, but I do think it’s a good one for parents to read. It presents some options, especially in some difficult situations (like explaining death), and it wouldn’t hurt parents to be familiar with them. Also, even if ultimately you still want your kids to “share,” you still might like the strategy where you make a list for who gets the toy next.

The Book in Action:

With his speech delay, obviously we had a harder time putting some of the book’s strategies into place. Castle simply cannot clearly say why he doesn’t want to play or go much beyond yelling, “Mine!” and his name. But, there were some strategies we were able to put into action:

  • We stopped referring to sharing and instead to taking long and short terms. The effect was immediate. He really did seem to feel more empowered with the ability to choose whether or not to give up a toy. We also found that he began to independently (without prompting) start sharing more toys.
  • We worked hard on the “feelings are ok, but the way you are expressing it is not” concept. When he’d start to get upset we’d ask him if he’d like to kick a pillow or a chair instead of the couch or wall. Often, he found the idea or the action funny, and would calm down sooner. Now that he’s more verbal, he started (all on his own) to start roaring like a lion when he gets mad at someone instead of hitting or dropping into a tantrum.
  • We’ve stopped saying “good job” for every little thing. Admittedly, our kid needs more praise than most because about 90% of his day is everyone correcting 85% of the words he tries to say. That’s a LOT of negative feedback for a 3 YO that simply can’t be avoided. He has to keep practicing saying words right or he never will get them correct. BUT, that doesn’t mean we have to praise him for things like remembering to flush the toilet. Now our praise seems to mean more, and he gets excited and smiles when he hears “good job.”
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