For children under the age of 7, sharing can be a difficult task to master. Even though children as young as 3 understand what sharing is, and that they should be sharing, when the sharing needs to be put into practice, the concept is lost completely.
Toddlers and preschoolers have shown us over the years, that they can also understand the concept of sharing and splitting things equally, however, most toddlers will want to keep all the toys to themselves when faced with a sharing situation. Toddlers can get triggered into a tantrum easily, here are my best tips on how to deal with toddler tantrums.
Kids are not naturally born “share-ers,” it’s a skill that we must teach them as they grow, just like emotional regulation.
When it comes to children, either in the same family or friends, there is always a chance of conflict.
Conflict can come on pretty suddenly, especially if the kids have been engaged in play for quite some time, but out of nowhere you might hear something like:
“I had that first!“
“No it’s mine!”
And suddenly one child is crying and the other is holding the toy they were fighting over.
So we can understand that it is difficult for kids to share, now we need to understand how to solve the problem. Sharing and playing nicely together go hand in hand, if you are trying to create strong sibling relationships check out this guide here: How To Teach Siblings To Be Best Friends.
A Strategy To Try To End The Kids Fighting Over Toys Issue
When it comes to children fighting over a toy, there is one thing you can do that’s pretty darn effective, and it’s been working over and over again for us, so you should definitely try this at home.
If you hear the kids shouting:
“I had that first!“
“No it’s mine!”
The best way to approach this sharing situation is to stay calm and stop the fighting.
Then allow the child to finish playing with their toy and then share it.
I love this approach because it allows the child to finish having their fun and they can have their toy for as long as they want it.
When you allow your child to make this decision to share you are teaching them positive assertiveness which in turn teaches confidence and raises self-esteem.
This teaches children to set boundaries among other children – a pretty super life skill to have!
This also teaches the other child to wait their turn, and they also learn that they can have the toy for as long they want it, as long as they wait patiently.
As an adult, I have trouble with this all the time…saying “no” and setting personal boundaries, who knew it stemmed from learning to share as a child.
Best of all, when a child willingly shares a toy all on their own when they are all finished with it, it is a happy moment for both children. No resentment, no bad feelings, and no tantrum!
Your child is learning how good it feels to share and is more likely to repeat this process even when parents are not watching just because it feels so good. In this case, there is no reason for teaching kids to share, because they do it on their own.
What If Your Child Is The One Waiting To Be Shared With At The Park
It can be difficult to watch an impulsive 3-year-old waiting for a friend to finish with their toy, but there are ways you can make the waiting period less difficult for them.
Showing empathy towards your child can be done with these phrases:
- Oh my goodness, waiting is so hard!
- I see you’re so mad right now, I know how bad you must want to play with that truck. You can have it soon.
- I’m sorry but we can’t just take it out of his hands, you have to wait.
If your children are having a hard time sharing and they begin to tattle and tell, this is the perfect opportunity to explain Tattling Vs. Telling To Kids.
How Kids Share Depending On their Age
An 18-month-old will not understand what sharing means.
Generally, toddlers believe they are the center of the universe and everything they see belongs to them. In terms of sharing, children should have an emotional understanding of keeping their feelings in check, and asking that of a toddler is just too much.
In this case, providing consequences as a result of a not sharing moment, will not have an effect on the learning of how to share.
At this stage, encouragement and practice will be the better option for trying to teach these values to your children.
When another child wants what your child has, your child will most definitely have a difficult time trying to understand the situation. A tantrum can form quickly if the child cannot get what they want.
Encourage your child to wait for their turn and try to explain the situation in a calm assertive voice. If you are concerned about your toddler sharing with a new baby check out this guide: How To Avoid Sibling Rivalry With A New Baby.
Sharing and turn-taking are often understood by the age of 3.
They could be able to understand the fairness of sharing, however, they are still delicate to the act of actually giving something up to another child to play with.
At this age, children are still impatient and that’s perfectly normal. Patience is a skill that even most adults do not possess.
Try to encourage turn-taking and talk about the value of fairness to teach your child about the value of sharing at this age.
You can try taking turns kicking a ball or shooting a basketball to help develop the patience needed to be able to share. Learning how to share can also prevent sibling rivalry, read more about that here: Preventing Sibling Rivalry In Young Families.
By the time kids are starting school, they have a good understanding of other people’s feelings and can often feel empathy for others.
By the time your child reaches this age, they will have a good understanding of fairness, kindness and relationships wither others. The tolerance for sharing is much higher and teaching kids to share becomes easier.
School-age children will get a lot of practice learning how to share in school and the act of sharing will become easier and easier to manage for both parent and child.
You can also use these Most Epic Kids Books About Sibling Rivalry to help your children learn more about sharing with their siblings.
Putting An End To Kids Fighting Over Toys Bottom Line
Sharing is a learned skill which toddlers have a tough time grasping due to their brain development. Remember that it’s not common for children to become good at sharing until the age of 7 (source).
Having patience and showing your little one the way on how to share and why it’s important is the best thing you can do to pave the correct path for your child on this subject.
Do you have other questions about children fighting? Check out my ultimate guide on Genius Ways To Minimize Sibling Rivalry At Home.