By Marcia Hall
From siblings to best friends, children have a difficult time learning to share. It is a concept that may not fully develop until late into grade school, if then. However, there are a few ways you can help your child develop an attitude of sharing.
Model sharing the things that are important to you with others. Often, parents expect their child to share toys, games and even attention with other children. This is usually expected because it was expected of them when they were children. However, adults rarely share the things that are really important to them. Do most adults go around loaning their cars, jewelry, clothes, homes, electronics and even their time to others? Your child sees that when an adult owns something it belongs to her, and she gets to decide when she feels like sharing it and when she does not feel like sharing it. This mindset then transfers into your child’s life. He rightfully feels that when something belongs to him because it was given as a gift or purchased with his own money, that it belongs to him. When he sees his parent being generous with what she has, he will think that sharing is a part of life. If he sees his parent unwilling to share the things she owns, big and little, then he is going to be less willing to share his own things.
Don’t make him share everything. When parents tell their child that they “must” share the toy with someone else, it stimulates a primal instinct everyone has. Instead of helping the child to learn to share, making a child share his toys actually causes him to want to share it and other toys less. He becomes afraid that at any moment you will come in and make him give up the thing that (at least right now) means everything to him. Instead, allow there to be at least a few toys that he has the right to choose when and with whom he will share. This gives the child just enough control over the situation to loosen his grip on the toy. When he has the independence to share it or not, he will eventually be willing to share with others.
Keep a set of toys that belong to you and share those with him and friends he has over. The big problem with not making your child share his toys is that it means that his friends or siblings do not have toys to play with together. To solve this problem you can create a family toy box. Everything in that toy box belongs to you – the adult. Because of this, you get to decide who the toys are shared with and when the toys are shared. You, of course, are very generous with the sharing of this toy box, and let not only your child but any other child that comes over to play use the toys. This will help in a few ways. It will help your child not feel so tense about sharing his own toys, which can actually help him want to share his. It will also provide a great example of sharing for your child. He will begin to learn that sharing can make play more fun.
Help him to see that when he shares with others, others are more willing to share with him and that it is more fun to share. There are a lot of ways you can help your child see this. Utilize moments when you see him sharing with siblings or with other children. Tell him that you see how well he is sharing and that you are glad he is able to have fun with someone else. Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your child learn a new life lesson. When playing with your child, talk about how much fun it is when you have people to play with instead of having to play by yourself. Make mention of sharing every time you see it in the world, whether in books, on the playground, on the TV or in your house.
Sharing is a very difficult habit to form in children. The truth is that most adults have not perfected this either. But life is much better when children learn to share what belongs to them, and it is incredibly rewarding as a parent to watch your child engage and play well with other children.