Should we encourage our children to share everything like the Rainbow Fish.

Posted on: April 29, 2012


This evening I read the beautifully illustrated story ‘The Rainbow Fish’ by Marcus Pfister to my son.  I have always liked the story due to the sharing sentimentality and the silver scales on the fish.  I even have fond memories of staging a version of the story in a class assembly with a superb bunch of reception children who, if I calculate correctly, are approximately sixteen years old now – but in my mind they are still four years old.

I have to admit that I haven’t really thought very deeply about the significance of the beautiful Rainbow Fish giving all of his scales to the other fish so that would be his friend.  Recently I have read the story a lot and my son constantly points out how unhappy the fish looks at the beginning of the story and enjoys seeing all of the fish playing at the end.  it wasn’t until I summarised the story to my son did I wonder if it was really the right message to give out,

‘The other fish are his friends now because the Rainbow fish gave them all of his scales’.

I began to consider the sad fact that the other fish would alienate and ignore him if he hadn’t given them his fins, so in effect he was forced to give his, ‘most precious possessions’, away in order to gain the approval of his peers.  Fortunately the Rainbow Fish was very happy with his decision and played with his new friends.

We could think in terms of the scales being a metaphor for being kind and not selfish, therefore it is perfectly acceptable to give them away.  What if they were  his favourite possession – does this mean that when my son comes home from school in the future in tears because he has been left out of a game I advise him to take his favourite toys to school and give them to the children so that they will be nice to him?

Children do need to learn how to share but also they need to learn how to stand their ground and not seek approval from others who try to intimidate them by either being forceful or ostracising them.   Children need to be able to share birthday cake, sweets and other small items so that they understand giving things to others.  They also need to respect each others’ toys and play carefully with them but know to give them back.


3 Responses to "Should we encourage our children to share everything like the Rainbow Fish."

I’m with you. I haven’t read this book yet but based on what you described, I would have to disagree with its message. I’m all for sharing, but only if the kids actually want to do it, and definitely not so that he can make friends.

Especially when a toy is special to a kid, or he isn’t done playing with it yet, it’s pretty unfair to force him to share if he’s not ready. I’m more about turn-taking, and showing my kid how happy the other kid feels because he shared, and how much fun they could both have if they play together. But I would also respect my kid (or any kid) if they’re not ready to share yet. I wrote more about this over at my blog:

Thank you for your comment – I have read your blog and totally agree that we are undermining our children by forcing them to share.

As soon as I observed this internet site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

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April 2012

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