Perhaps one of the most difficult things to teach a child is how to share. Walking, talking, and potty training are all skills that take time and patience, but they really don’t involve quite as much emotion in the child as sharing does. When you give a child a new toy or any other object, they view it as theirs. They suddenly have this new thing that they are so excited about, and then they are expected to hand it over to another child? Really it’s not hard to understand why they have such a difficult time with it.
Teaching children to share has to start from the very beginning with even the simplest things. Sharing has to be something that children are praised for and excited about, just like any other skill you are trying to teach. Here are a few simple tips for helping your child learn to share; start now, be patient, and praise well, and you’ll have a happy, sharing child on your hands.
From the time your child is only a few months old you’ll begin handing her objects, reading her books, or playing with toys. This is when the idea of sharing needs to begin. Your child may not fully comprehend what is going on, but at least she will get used to the idea of her holding a toy and then mommy holding it, and so on.
The simplest things can make a big difference. Even playing along when your child is learning to feed herself and allow her to share her food with you when she reaches up with sticky, messy hands. Say things like, “Can mommy have some?” and then allow them to share. Make it clear that you are happy and then praise her and keep continuing the process. As soon as sharing becomes a game, she’s much more likely to keep doing it.
As children get older and grow into toddlers, they become more territorial, and their things are strictly theirs; they don’t want to share with anyone; especially other toddlers and children. It’s a good idea to arrange play dates or other opportunities for your children to spend time with other children so that they learn to share even if they are an only child.
Preparation and Understanding
As adults, we often forget that we don’t really like sharing either. We do it, reluctantly, but that’s because we’ve outgrown the ability to throw tantrums, pout, or hit the other person upside the head. Our children, on the other hand, have not learned that, and they simply openly display the things that we feel but can’t act upon.
Really try to be understanding about your child not wanting to share. When playgroups or relatives with children are coming over, make sure that your child knows ahead of time that they are coming and that they will want to play with his toys. Let your child know that they will only be there for a little while and they will not take his toys; they just want to share while they are there. Your child may seem accepting or he’ll let you know right away that he does not like the idea.
Tell him that if he has some special toys that he doesn’t want to share, that you can put them away while his friends come over. Obviously this should be limited to a few things and he should know that the rest of the toys will need to be shared. Also take this opportunity to encourage him and even offer a special reward if he is able to share his toys without fighting or getting upset. Really stress the idea of “taking turns,” so that your child knows that he too will get a turn with his toy.
Make a big deal about sharing when you are trying to teach your child, and point out even the simplest examples of sharing. At the dinner table, instead of saying “please pass the potatoes,” you can say, “Please share the potatoes.” In this way, the word “share” becomes commonplace and is suddenly not such a traumatizing thing.
Make sure that you also give your child plenty of opportunities to see you share. If sharing is something that mommy and daddy do, it suddenly becomes cool to do it too. Point out that mommy and daddy share the toothpaste or mommy shares the dinners she cooks. Even the simplest things can make a difference when trying to teach a child.
You can also provide your child with books and toys that teach sharing. There are shelves and shelves of books about learning to share, how sharing is fun, or about feelings getting hurt when others don’t share. You might use books like these as rewards for successful sharing during playgroups and other social events.