It all starts at a playground where the children are playing happily with each other and then out of nowhere one child wants what another child has.
The average response (and I’m super guilty of this too) is to say ” Now Johnny, share that truck with that boy, you can always play with it when we get home.”
I can’t believe how many times a situation like this has come up, and it never ends well.
Turns out I’ve been going about the whole thing all wrong. Forcing children to share their things with strangers should NOT be the norm.
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“Sharing Is Caring”
I literally grew up on the phrase ” sharing is caring”. It was forced on me so hard that I shared everything and anything with anyone and everyone. Even my most favourite things!
I learned that sharing doesn’t feel good.
When a parent “asks” (but really it’s demand here, not so much ask) their child to share it is the parent being generous, not the child. The child is simply complying with an outrageous request.
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.
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.
This teaches 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.
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.
What If Your Child Is The One Waiting To Be Shared With?
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.
Related: Words To Use Instead Of “No”
Recommended resources for teaching children to share:
The author of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kid is Heather Shumaker. She talks about sharing and about the other 29 “renegade rules” in her book. To learn more, click here.