How to teach your children how to share with their friends and siblings in a way that is safe, and fair.
Have you ever been on a play date, or in other scenarios in your everyday life where one child is playing with special toys and and another child is wanting to play with that prized possession.
The truth is, kids do not understand the concept of sharing until they hit the young age of 3, and even then it is difficult to share their favorite toy until they learn empathy at the age of 6.
Children only thing about their own feelings, and learning valuable lessons such as sharing can be a difficult concept for many.
Turns out I’ve been going about the whole sharing thing all wrong myself. Forcing children to share their things with strangers should NOT be the norm. Kids need to understand that their own feelings matter, and that sharing can happen when the time is right.
The bottom line is when teaching children to share it is important to allow your child to finish with their toy before giving it up to the second child, no matter the amount of time they spend playing with the special toy.
See also: 17 Positive Discipline Tools You Need
“Sharing Is Caring”
I literally grew up on the phrase ”sharing is caring”. It was forced on me so hard that I shared my own things with anyone and everyone. Even my most favourite things!
I learned at an early age that sharing doesn’t feel good.
These long term negative consequences can hinder life experiences in the long run.
When a parent “asks” (but really it’s demand here, not so much ask) their child to share their teddy bear it is the parent being generous, not the child.
The child is simply complying with an outrageous request that disregards the child’s own needs when the parent uses the word share.
Let’s say the role was reversed. You’re an adult and you’re at the playground watching your children play and talking on the phone. One of the parents nearby needs to use your phone and your child says to you, mommy share your phone, now.
Do you end your phone call and give your phone to a stranger? Absolutely not! At least not until you’re finished using it.
So why do we expect our children to stop everything they are doing and give up their things?
I didn’t realize that this is not the best way to teach children about sharing. I mean sharing is generous. Don’t we want our children to grow up and be generous people?
While the answer is definitely YES, most of us do want to raise sweet and generous children, there are different ways to teach these behaviours that don’t involve hurt feelings at the playground and among siblings at home.
The Best Way To Teach Sharing
The best way to approach this sharing situation is to allow your child to finish playing with their toy and THEN share it with a friend.
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.
It’s basically promoting bodily autonomy and gives you a great opportunity to teach your child that their feelings matter, that they matter. This is an important message for kids, especially in those preschool years when they’re learning who they are.
This is a great way to teach younger children to set boundaries among other children – a pretty super life skill to have!
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. This is why these important skills are so important for small children to learn.
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.
This is what positive parenting is all about. Creating connections, using positive reinforcement and not using negative punishment based discipline to teach our children lesson.
When Kids Learn How to Share
Sharing is an important life skill but is tough for children until they reach the age of three.
This isn’t to say that you can’t start training your child to share at a younger age; after all, some young kids do learn to share at a younger age. However, it is critical to maintain reasonable expectations even for older children.
Because each child is unique, sharing may come naturally to some and be quite tough for others.
When prompted to take turns, your child may hurl the large fire truck, grab his friend’s plush animal, or refuse to share his jigsaw puzzle with his siblings. That’s OK.
Remember that your child is still young and that you may continue to assist him or her build sharing skills over time by taking it in stride. The important thing is to avoid negative experiences and set a good example by encouraging strong relationships among all children.
What If Your Child Is The One Waiting To Be Shared With?
It can be difficult to watch an impulsive toddler with low emotional intelligence waiting for a friend to finish with their toy, but there are ways you can make the waiting period less difficult for those with no understanding of time.
Showing empathetic behavior 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.
Research shows that children develop empathy for people’s feelings when they are around 6 years of age! Therefore it makes sense to be a peaceful parent and encourage a positive sharing process that will have more teaching power in the long turn.
Why Children Should Not Be Required To Share Bottom Line
Do we believe that educating our children to share will enable them to fit in? Do we want to teach our children to be charitable by satisfying the needs of others as they grow up?
Is it because we want other adults to see that we are adhering to societal standards and that we don’t come off as selfish or neglectful parents?
Sharing, lending, and borrowing of special possessions are too complicated for young children to comprehend. Toddlers lack empathy and are unable to perceive things through the eyes of another child and cannot create their own solutions to these new concepts of sharing.
Forcing your kid to share does not teach the social skills we want our toddlers to acquire; instead, it may communicate numerous signals we don’t want to send, and it may even increase the number of times your child shares.