We all want to raise polite, well-mannered children who readily share their belongings with others. As any parent will tell you, however, sharing does not come naturally to children and it takes a bit of time to teach them to willingly share.
What They Think
When you take a toy from your toddler in order to teach sharing, they don’t realise that they will be getting the toy back again. They think you are simply taking it away and giving it to another child. It’s no wonder that they object to this! Toddlers cannot yet grasp the concept of sharing, but as they grow into preschoolers, they will better understand and will become more willing to share and take turns.
In the beginning, it can work best to encourage your child to share things that you have multiples of, such as blocks, crayons, or snacks. It can be far easier to share these types of items since there are many available, so there are some to share and some to keep. As your child learns to share in this manner, gradually encourage the sharing of single items, such as a doll or a truck. It’s a good idea to talk about taking turns so that your child understands that after a time, it will again be their turn. In the beginning, it helps to keep each child’s turn fairly short — just a few minutes. Some parents find that using a timer works wonders in getting their child to share. Simply set the timer and when it chimes, it is time to pass the toy along and find something else to play with for the next time segment. After a while, children will begin to share naturally.
It can also help to give children some control. While it is important that your child learns to share with others, they will do so more willingly if you allow them to make some choices. For example, if you are at the beach and your child has numerous sand toys, you can let him decide which ones to share with his friends. Saying, “Which bucket should Michael play with — the yellow one or the green one?” gently leads your child into sharing while allowing him to remain in control of his possessions.
Mine, Mine, Mine!
Most people, not just children, have a few things that they would prefer not to share. Many children have a favourite stuffed animal or other item for which they have a special attachment and it is not fair to expect them to share these things. It is important, however, that they learn to accept the fact that if they are not willing to share a certain item, it is better left at home rather than bringing it along on play dates.
When you see your child sharing, taking turns, or being kind to others, be sure to let them know that you are pleased. Take the time to notice their good behaviour and encourage it by praising them when they are being kind and considerate. Children want to please you and are likely to repeat actions that earn them positive feedback.
Set the Example
Children do much of their learning from observing the behaviour of the adults in their lives. Be sure that your children see you sharing your time and possessions with others, and they will be likely to follow your good example.