Teaching kids to share is an important part of parenting, we all want kids who are polite and good citizens. Toddlers are generally sharing averse, and teaching them to share is difficult. Most experts agree that most kids under three are low on empathy, which is a large part of sharing. Around three, kids start developing empathy and that is when they really start to comprehend sharing, though it doesn’t make it easier.
Imagine if you were driving to work one day, and at a red light someone said, “Nice car, I want to play with it, your turn is over.” You would probably lock the doors and drive away. Now imagine that you get pulled over and the police officer tells you that you’ve had enough time with your car, you have to share it. It is an extreme example, but we imagine that it feels about the same for a kid who is forced to give up a toy he is currently using so someone else can play.
The other main problem with forcing, is that the child doesn’t learn a lesson about sharing. We believe that if a child feels she has control over when to share and not to share, she will be more likely to want to share.
When they are Battling over a Toy
I’m sure you are familiar with this scenario, child A is intently playing with a toy when child B comes along and tries to take it. A scuffle ensues, probably with a lot of shouting. Your first instinct may be to jump in and break it up, but it may be helpful to wait and see what happens. If it escalates, step in and break it up. But you may see that they are able to resolve the conflict themselves, which is great practice for an important skill. Sometimes, the conflict is not even about the toy itself, but just a way of interacting with each other.
When you intervene, make some suggestions about how best to share. Suggest taking turns, and the best way to do that, or how to play together. We really loved the suggestion that you ask the child with the toy to show the other child, this usually leads to sharing. Make suggestions about what to do while waiting for the next turn, this will help your child develop the skills to learn patience.
Be Patient and Share
One of the best ways to teach sharing to your child is to model sharing. Not just sharing your things, but being kind and generous with others. When you are waiting in a long line at the grocery store and you let someone with two items go ahead of you, or you let people go ahead of you in heavy traffic, or when you are kind to an overwhelmed server, these are all opportunities to model empathetic behavior to your child.
When you do these things, talk about why you are doing them. You let people in in traffic when you are in a hurry because you know how it feels to be on the other end, and you want to be kind to strangers. You can even relate this to sharing toys, how does your child feel when others share with him? How does he feel when someone won’t share?
Teach your Child to Share without Forcing
Teaching a kid to be kind, share, and care about other’s feelings is a slow and difficult process. If you can do this while respecting your child’s feelings as well, it will be nicer for you and teach them a stronger lesson.