Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
Parenting can be such an overwhelming job that it’s easy to lose track of where you stand on some of the more controversial subjects at the playground (What if my kid likes to rough house—isn’t this ok as long as no one gets hurt? And what if my kid just doesn’t feel like sharing?). In this inspiring and enlightening book, Heather Shumaker describes her quest to nail down “the rules” to raising smart, sensitive, and self-sufficient kids. Drawing on her own experiences as the mother of two small children, as well as on the work of child psychologists, pediatricians, educators and so on, in this book Shumaker gets to the heart of the matter on a host of important questions. many of the rules aren’t what you think they are!

The “rules” in this book focus on the toddler and preschool years—an important time for laying the foundation for competent and compassionate older kids and then adults. Here are a few of the

   • It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property
   • Bombs, guns and bad guys allowed.
   • Boys can wear tutus.
   • Pictures don’t have to be pretty.
   • Paint off the paper!
   • Sex ed starts in preschool
   • Kids don’t have to say “Sorry.”
   • Love your kid’s lies.
IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE is an essential resource for any parent hoping to avoid PLAYDATEGATE (i.e. your child’s behavior in a social interaction with another child clearly doesn’t meet with another parent’s approval)!

400 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Heather Shumaker

11 books38 followers
Heather Shumaker writes books for children and adults. She began writing books in elementary school and is now an award-winning author of several books for adults. The Griffins of Castle Cary is her first book for children.

Before she became an author, Heather tried many jobs, including: milk maid, sailor, llama trek guide and fire crew. She also lived at the South Pole and sorted garbage and recycling in Antarctica. Heather now lives in northern Michigan with her husband and two children.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
646 (52%)
4 stars
441 (35%)
3 stars
117 (9%)
2 stars
27 (2%)
1 star
6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 162 reviews
Profile Image for Alexandria.
864 reviews17 followers
September 18, 2017
Parenting books are always going to be a mixed bag and people are going to read those that seem to support their ideals, creating a kind of echo chamber. I try to avoid this by reading books that rely heavily on scientific studies rather than on "well everyone knows that you're supposed to...." sort of reasoning.

Shumaker does a relatively good job of referencing the studies she uses to support her work, though I would have liked a stronger bibliography or more source citation. She also tends to rely heavily on her own experiences and the advice of people who worked at the school she attended, which can again create a kind of echo chamber. But since scientific studies seem to back up the same suggestions and ideas, it doesn't seem to be doing much harm.

Many of the reviews I've read thus far are from people who had a handle on some of the concepts in this book before they ever picked it up: Don't force a child to give up a toy/play equipment spot the second another child wants to use it. Listen to your children and try to give them the space they need to express themselves without letting them run wild.

I didn't have a lot of these guidelines when I was growing up. I had to follow the rules, all the rules, or I was Bad Girl. To this day, I have problems stepping outside the lines and often feel that if I can't do it right, then I shouldn't do it at all. I don't want to pass these traits onto my son, and I think that Shumaker's suggestions could help my husband and I avoid these issues.

Touching on topics ranging from "No Boys/Girls Allowed" to introducing the concept of death to children in as safe a manner as possible, to toy weapons, Shumaker's work covers the big topics where many people are uncertain. She brings science and reason to the table, but still leaves room for her reader's personal preference and comfort levels. She doesn't say "This is how it has to be". She says "this is what science/experts think will work best. Here's a few ways you can work these practices into your life. Go at your own pace, whatever pace it is to keep you and your family happy and comfortable". She also takes time to point out that there will be days when her reader, as a parent or caregiver, simply won't have the energy to employ the tips in this book and that it is perfectly fine. Expected even. All that matters is that we try what we can, when we can, and do the best we can for our children.
Profile Image for Charly Troff (JustaReadingMama).
1,218 reviews24 followers
March 30, 2021
Reread 2021: Having read a lot more parenting books now, this is no longer my favorite, but it's still a really good one. It was the first that introduced me to this type of parenting, which I love. I strive to be this kind of mom. I don't agree with everything in the book, but I love the principles it is based on (like the idea that kids have rights we as parents need to support or that kids can learn to set their own boundaries with our help).

Original read 2017: If you are a parent, read this book. It is my absolute favorite parenting book now, I can't say enough good about it. It has changed the way I (and my husband) parent, the way I interact with nieces and nephews, even the way I teach my four year old class at church. Everything she teaches is based off of the rights the children (and parents) have, she gives examples of application, shares some specific things you should and shouldn't say in certain situations, and even shares ideas for how to handle other parents who parent differently than you. This is the best parenting book I've ever picked up.
681 reviews57 followers
November 3, 2017
This book didn't really offer me much in the way of new information, but I can agree with most of the information she shared.

*I prefer her solution to sharing to the RIE solution, however, both solutions make more sense for a daycare where none of the toys belong to any of the children rather than moms-at-home with their babies having play dates. I think Super Parents Super Children might have the best solution for moms.*

What drove me insane about this book is that the author is inconsistent and doesn't think through her arguments. She lists Punished By Rewards as a recommended book at the end yet uses various punishments and rewards throughout in order to control the children. Don't help your child down from the tree?!!! That's an attempt to control them rather than a way to relate to them honestly. That IS a punishment. How would you like it if you bit off a little more than you could chew and your husband refused to help you because he thought that was "good" for you, he wanted to "teach you a lesson"?

Author needs to study NVC, or read Consciously Parenting. "It's not okay" is not what she should be advising parents to say to their children. It begets the question: for whom? to whom? There is no difference between saying, "it is bad to do x," and, "it is not okay." Both are judgements. How does she not see that?

"I don't like it when you..." is more accurate and more honest and not judgmental like, "it's not okay."
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,395 reviews71 followers
November 28, 2012
Terrific book. Parents should always build their own parenting styles and practices on belief and practice--a parent who feel rock-solid comfortable with their own ideas will make their kids feel comfortable, too, knowing that mom and dad stand for something, have some non-negotiables. So--I wouldn't advise anyone to use this as a manual.

With that said, the book is full of different ways to look at common practices ("Say you're sorry!") and can serve as a spur to re-thinking some of the things you learned in your own childhood. At that--re-framing many of the common dilemmas of parenting--Shumaker is superb.
Profile Image for Mary.
850 reviews47 followers
July 16, 2020
There's a lot about this book that I really admire: the emphasis on protecting play, encouraging kids to work out their own social relationships, and empowering adults to parent how they'd like. I like 99% of the research she journalistically cites (although I wish she had proper endnotes or footnotes) and a lot of researchers feel like old friends.

The book focuses on the preschool years, and the progressive preschool where Shumaker went (and where her mom still teaches) is the ideal. There's definitely an emphasis on boy issues--roughhousing, gender-bending play, and super heroes--which makes sense, since her own kids are boys and, as she points out, most of kids' spaces are dominated by women.

Some of the brilliant bits:

-Since kids develop empathy along with theory of mind, and quite late in preschool-hood, making them say "Sorry" is hollow--instead, explicitly explain what happened to the other person and have them make restitution: "You ran over Elena's foot with your trike and that hurt and now she's crying. Can you go get her blanket to help her feel better?"

-Kids find a lot of power in the physically written word, so writing out a contract for future events ("Anders gets 1/2 hour of video game time tomorrow") or emotions ("Lincoln misses Fluffy Blankie. He wishes she were here") has a big, often immediate, impact.

-Don't ban rough/loud/messy play, but create limits and boundaries where it can flourish. Ask wrestling kids, "Is everyone still having fun?" and insist on a safe word like "stop" or "uncle" to let kids tap out. Direct rambunctious kids to play rooms or outside. Have time, materials and spaces where rough/loud/messy play can be engaged in. It's okay to say "We can play with Nerf guns at our house, but not everyone likes toy guns, so only at home." It's okay to say "You can color whatever you want on paper, but not on the walls or library books."

-Let kids negotiate their own relationships. They don't have to play with everyone; they don't have to like everyone. They do get to set rules in relationships ("The baby can't touch my toys") and redefine them as they go ("We can pass the ball back and forth, though"). Instead of adults arbitrating, let kids do the work ("Ask those kids what they're playing and if you can play. They might say yes or they might say no.")

-Talk seriously and literally about Big Issues like death and sex from an early age. Ask them what they want to know and focus on answering their questions rather than being comprehensive at every instance.

The parts I'm not wild about? I'm not sure I buy the "if you express the emotion, you'll 'let it out' and be done"--I know a lot of people and kids who spiral into "I'm stupid/I hate X/You always .../ I never ..." and building those neural pathways over and over again make them easier to travel down. Ditto on the chapter on swears--if you're accustomed to saying it in private, it will be easier in public. If you say it when calm, you'll be more likely to say it when angry. She sort of side-steps the discriminatory swears like the N-word in one paragraph where she has a reasoned conversation with her son about how that word hurts people --and for that matter, while she's okay with "no boys allowed," she blithely asserts that racial and ethnic discrimination is "relevant to older kids and adults" (181). Racist language and behavior is an exception to her "it's all practice and play," but she doesn't have a comprehensive reason why.

And there's a big, electronic hole in this book that ignores the existence of video games and television and other types of technological play. Shumaker even off-handed remarks, literally, that she doesn't "even own a television," which made me laugh aloud, because I didn't think that we were still bragging about that. Electronic media and play are part of almost every family's life (I almost said "every," but then remembered the Mennonites) and kids and parents need to learn how to navigate those kinds of play, too, even/especially as preschoolers.

Finally, I'm not wild about the ethos (and title) that parents who do these things are renegades. These practices should be common sense and the more we frame them as common sense, the more likely
they are to take root. We aren't brave exceptions--we should be working for all kids to have access to free play and autonomy.

(Probably 3 1/2 stars)
Profile Image for Chris Norbury.
Author 4 books66 followers
July 11, 2016
Most of one’s success in life is based on using plain, simple common sense. Most of one’s success raising children should be based on common sense too. Ms. Shumaker's book drips with common sense on every page. Her main premise is instead of trying to raise our children to become mini-adults, we should use common sense to understand the why's of their behaviors, and then raise them to become the best children they can be, with appropriate challenges and success at each stage of their development. She feels this is the most effective method for helping them become successful adults.

What I see as her overarching rule of rules is her Renegade Rule #2: It's OK if it's not hurting people or property. My translation: let kids be kids. Allow them to make noise, make messes, wrestle and roughhouse with each other by mutual agreement, have arguments, be selfish and hog a toy for the entire day, say almost anything (with certain limitations), play during 99% of their free time, and make believe any fantasy they can dream of, even if that fantasy appears to be violent on the surface. AS LONG AS IT'S NOT HURTING PEOPLE OR PROPERTY.

The format is laid out simply, logically, and clearly. Twenty-nine rules, each with its own chapter. Each chapter explains the rule, the reason for the rule, why it works with children, what you might object to initially, case studies or examples of the rule in action, and Renegade Blessings and Children's Rights, which further help reinforce this new way of thinking for parents.

Each chapter also contains step-by-step procedures and suggestions for implementing a new rule. Ms. Shumaker also deals with the inevitable clash between old and new cultures and how to deal with, for example, parents who believe it's abhorrent to let young children indulge in any sort of violent or aggressive fantasy or game. She acknowledges there will be friction between parents with different parenting philosophies and provides handy explanations and justifications for the Renegade parent to gently educate another parent in how to accept a Renegade Parent's style.

Bottom line, I usually conk out reading in bed by eleven o'clock, but "It's OK NOT to Share" was such a page turner it kept me up reading well past midnight on two occasions. This is the best book I've read this year and one of the best nonfiction books I've read in many years.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
373 reviews11 followers
January 8, 2014
Some of it I love, some of it I will not incorporate into our life. Some of the chapters were not convincing at all even while relying on child development specialists to make her point. While I wouldn't say No to weapon play, I would also not buy my child a toy gun. Just as I wouldn't buy an American girl doll. It is important for me, being the one who buys the toys, that I am supporting what I believe is a good company, a good kind of toy etc.

I loved the overall themes of letting children play and many of my pet peeves like telling kids not to run or to "be careful" were included. Lots of good stuff, but there were too many sections that I really didn't like... and therefore I finished the book feeling like I can't really recommend the book without a giant disclaimer that some of it is not on the right path, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Sam Martin.
36 reviews3 followers
July 21, 2021
All-time favorite parenting book. I wish everyone would read this - even people whose only interaction with children is a wave on the sidewalk. If all children were allowed to navigate childhood with this level of understanding from adults, the whole world would be changed for the better.
Profile Image for Ashley.
188 reviews4 followers
July 9, 2014
I really liked the fresh perspective this book took on parenting, and I intend to utilize several strategies I found here. In many ways, some of these ideas were a huge relief. My son was Montessori schooled through kindergarten, and it was mostly a good fit for him (not, unfortunately, for my daughter), but one thing my husband and I still laugh about to this day is how seriously the teachers took roughhousing and how we were even instructed to eliminate it at our house. My husband's evening wrestling matches with my son were frowned upon, even though in some ways they were my son's lifeblood and enabled him to get through the task-heavy days at school. So I am very excited to get the imprimatur from the author to let the kids run roughshod as they roughhouse. There were some sections I disagreed with--for example, exclusion based on gender is simply never going to happen in my house. I see too much of that kind of exclusion, mostly from girls, I hate to say it, in my son's school. It's confusing and it further deepens a divide that, frankly, doesn't have to be there. But the author is good about saying that not all of these "rules" need to be followed--in fact, she says, she doesn't even follow all of them.

My quibbles are fairly minor. There was some sloppy repetition in the text that could have been eliminated, sometimes verbatim within the same section. I also felt the author relied far too heavily on the teachers at her mother's preschool when she was looking to add some "expert support" to her ideas. I thought the most effective aspect of the book was the author's confidence, her commonsense suggestions and tactics, not the "supporting of the case" she seemed moved to do from time to time (whether out of insecurity or an editor's prodding). I know it's tricky to sell a parenting book when the author doesn't have a platform or isn't a parenting expert, but that's how I would frame the book. That's what makes it an interesting sell. What T. Berry Brazelton says is interesting, but I'm sold on her strategies because they make sense to me on some core level and because she's not overselling them.
Profile Image for Rebecca Reid.
388 reviews31 followers
June 6, 2013
When I first saw it in the Netgalley catalog, I was startled by the title It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker (Tarcher, 2012). Not share? Isn’t that the first thing we teach our babies during play dates? I was delighted by some of the concepts in this parenting book, not because I agreed with it all, but because it opened my mind to different ways to approach teaching my children about relationships, compassion, and dealing with the ups and downs of life.

I liked Ms Shumaker’s explanations for the “renagade rules.” If we make children say “sorry,” they learn that they can say a word and go on with playing. If we teach them to stop and notice that another child is hurt or crying, they learn sincerity and compassion. Let them decide to say sorry, but do help them notice what they’ve done. Similarly, if we force a child to share a coveted swing, he may resent the parent and the other child. If we alert him to the fact that others want a turn and let him choose when to get off the swing, he may learn to be more sensitive to those around him.

Although I obviously won’t implement all the “renegade rules”, I certainly appreciated the eye-opening look at a different way to parent. I appreciate the thoughts on how our forced compassion back-fires, and I intend to reconsider my responses to my young children in the future. In all, It’s OK Not to Share is a worth-while read for parents seeking more ideas.

Cross-posted on my blog
Profile Image for Overrated Parenting.
5 reviews4 followers
June 6, 2013
I reviewed off a free advance reader copy from the bookstore where I used to work.

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.
Profile Image for Tim.
179 reviews10 followers
June 22, 2014
I can recommend this book to any parent or care giver. It's especially geared for younger (say the under 5 y/o crowd) child, which is a pivotal time in child development.

The content of the book fits my overall parenting philosophy of allowing a child to develop and learn, and this book matches my weaknesses (I'm less versed in social-emotional areas). I found the ideas novel yet sensible, and before I was done reading the book, I had already tested out a few of the ideas (with success).

I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because as some reviewers have mentioned, the book is lengthy (which is good) and at times redundant (not so good). This is a mild peeve and shouldn't stop anyone from reading the book. Additionally, the book couldn't have gotten off to a worse start than it did in the first chapter. While children learn a lot by playing (and the rest of the book really illustrates why), that doesn't necessarily mean they "learn best" as the author contends. That's a value judgement that will depend on what, precisely, is being learned. If I could do it again, I'd just skip the first chapter.
Profile Image for Karla.
9 reviews
April 19, 2017
A friend recommended this, and I'm glad I read it. So sensible! Some of her recommendations I'd have a really hard time implementing, but it was a great reminder to remember where kids are developmentally and not expect too much too soon. If they're not hurting people or property, it's going to be OK! Kids desperately need play to learn. She offers suggestions for helping kids to work towards dealing with conflict on their own, and good reminders for parents to look to the feelings underneath behaviors and deal with those first. I wish I'd read it sooner.
Profile Image for Melinda.
175 reviews2 followers
March 6, 2013
I wish I'd had this book when my oldest was about two. A fantastic, common-sense resource full of wonderful advice for parents. I love that, unlike other resources, it actually gives you things to and not to say.
Profile Image for Maria.
150 reviews
June 6, 2019
Readers of “Peaceful Parent, Happy Child” and “How to Talk so Kids will Listen” will find a lot of familiar territory in this book as far as acknowledging emotions, conflict resolution, and enabling confident, self-assured kids.

The parts I found the most helpful were how to coach kids sentence by sentence through peer conflict and asserting one’s desires while still being kind. I think sometimes people assume kids figure out interpersonal relationships on their own but at least in my preschooler’s case, it really helps him to have an adult model phrases like, “I’d like to play alone please” and “can I play with you?” and “may I have a turn with that when you are done?” and “yes you can have this when I am finished.” In particular the author makes a really great argument against “timed” sharing and turns, saying that allowing kids to relinquish toys of their own volition, on their own time, teaches them more about generosity and noticing the needs of their peers than a grownup sitting with a stopwatch saying “ok, it’s X’s turn!” every five minutes.

Like all parenting books with “renegade” advice, I suspect some of this may be met with resistance while practicing in public but I’m looking forward to trying out some of these techniques with my kid.
Profile Image for Erin Sullivan.
21 reviews
March 29, 2023
Lots of really great ideas. I loved her thoughts about conflicts as opportunities for learning rather than something to avoid. I also loved the ideas of long turns, play fighting, as well as many other thoughts. While there were many great points made on gender norms and roles, the way it was discussed was slightly outdated at times. Keep in mind that this book is over 10 years old; take tips on gender with a grain of salt. One positive within the topic of gender, however, is how unbiased she remained on the value of the gender/sexual identity a child may assume as they get older. Instead of saying “your boy might wear dresses and that’s okay because it doesn’t matter what his sexual or gender identity is,” she says that the type of play your child engages in now won’t impact who they really are, which is so true!! She did a good job of staying within the scope of the book, discussing the meaning of exploratory play, and not preaching too much, which is important to get buy in from the readers who need to hear this stuff most. Would recommend!!
Profile Image for Taylor Kundel-Gower.
728 reviews20 followers
November 14, 2019
I have gained a lot of practical tools from reading this book. For one, we are much more lenient on roughhousing now. We have also ditched forced sharing in most situations and allow our kids long turns. It has stopped a lot of fighting and resentment. This book gives me a really simple way to gauge my kids’ behavior; are they hurting someone (physically or emotionally)? Are they destroying property? No? Then don’t sweat it, even if their behavior isn’t meeting each and every adult expectation or cultural norm.
Profile Image for Laura Holmes.
10 reviews
December 28, 2021
This book was BRILLIANT! I have worked with kids/teens for my entire adult life and have read my fair share of parenting books, and yet still I learned a ton. The author has so many points and perspectives that I simply hadn't thought of before. My daughter is just shy of two so a lot of it doesn't quite apply to her yet, but I will certainly apply what is relevant now and will apply many of the other concepts as she gets a bit older. Definitely would recommend this book to parents of young children!
Profile Image for Sarah Casady.
39 reviews
August 13, 2018
Nothing that a typical peaceful parenting / emotional intelligence book won't tell you. Each chapter was incredibly repetitive and went over the same exact idea for far too long. the ideas are all very basic peaceful parenting concepts - essentially have your child learn how to control themselves rather than control them. I'd recommend Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids over this book for someone interested in peaceful parenting.
Profile Image for Kimber.
187 reviews3 followers
August 26, 2019
One of the best and more transformative parenting books I have read! I deliberately read it slowly over 9 months, reading one chapter at a time and trying to implement that I had learned. Having my toddler dictate his big feelings to me and writing them in letter form. Encouraging by boys to work problems out between each other and set their own boundaries. Encouraging roughhousing and physical play. Letting them take as long a turn as they want, and then they gladly give away that toy when they are good and ready....the list continues on and on! I started reading this after my boys turned 2, and it was a great time to start - although it is relevant all the way up to 4th/5th graders too! I highly recommend this book - top 2 best parenting books I have read.
Profile Image for Bonnie L.
33 reviews4 followers
February 1, 2020
While I didn't agree with everything in this book, I definitely appreciated the gentle and practical approaches to many parenting issues. With scientific and child development backing, it gave a lot of great insight into how little brains work. The best part was the extremely practical examples given in each chapter.
Profile Image for snpefk.
62 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2022
Как пишут на заборах: «came for porn, stayed for music».

По совету открыл прочитать о выставление личных границ, а то в жизни впадаю в крайности (резкость методов отстаивания пусть будет упражнением для читателя). В результате познал дзен общения с людьми от 2 до 95 лет. Мысль — радикальная: у детей и взрослых одинаковая потребность в уважении, безопасности и комфорте. Что работает на дошкольнике с такой же эффективностью прокатят и на взрослом лбе [citation needed], а психологической гимнастики от исполнителя требуют меньше. Хэштег Андрей Бреслав был прав.

Алсо, лет через 8-10, наверно, перечитаю по прямому назначению
Profile Image for Danielle.
548 reviews35 followers
November 7, 2020
This is an excellent and super practical book with specific calls to action (phrases to use, ideas to try, etc) at each chapters end.

I found these topics extremely useful: mediating conflict, emotion coaching, sharing people and toys, sex education.
Profile Image for Kat.
89 reviews
February 6, 2022
Highly recommended parenting book, one of the best ones that I have listened to, and I have listened to quite a few!

Clear, practical information, the book isn't repetitive at all and offers new tools in every chapter, easy to follow and put into action in real life.

The narrator makes an excellent job!

A must-read for all parents (and educators).
Profile Image for Adriane.
27 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2019
Some helpful ideas and reminders, but a lot of goofy junk too. I was looking for a book to help with fights between siblings close in age - this was not it.
Profile Image for Jessie.
159 reviews
June 12, 2019
My favorite parenting book so far. I do have a caveat, but I can't decide if it's big enough to knock off a star. Review later.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 162 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.