It has been 18 years now of teaching and caring for children! The thing comes up as the most difficult things to teach and learn? Sharing (well, besides sleep, of course!) So now I am mom to a 2.5 year-old and I am the director of a school and a parent coach. I am ALWAYS thinking about sharing. So I’m happy to share my tips.
1) What Is Mine? The biggest tip I will give you for school or at a friend’s house is that the child be allowed to bring/carry something special of her own that she does not have to share. Something she sleeps with or dearly loves is an example. We don’t have to share everything with everyone, but having something that truly is “mine” around is a good way to help her see that there are differences between shared things, things that belong to others that are okay to share, things that others aren’t willing to share, and her own things. You can also model this as well. “This is my special necklace that I don’t share, but I would like to share all of my scarves with you!”
2) Repetition. Then, parent and teachers can reiterate, ”Now is Jason’s turn with the doll, you can hold your bear from home which is yours.” The adult can hand her her own personal item as a re-direction in challenging share situations. If she goes back to take the doll? Repeat.
3) Teach Communication. If there is pulling, I simply say, ”We don’t pull toys, it might hurt somebody or hurt the toy. We ask ‘Please may I play with that?’ or we ask a grownup for help.” These are really big concepts that aren’t understood immediately, so the main thing is consistency in what you are telling him, and saying it over and over again. (The third time, I remove the child from the situation where he cannot see the other child or toy, onto my lap in a quieter spot to get eye contact and repeat again why we don’t pull toys.) This is part of the 6 Steps for Halting Harm in my Gentle Discipline workshops.
4) Model and Narrate Sharing! Make a big deal of your own sharing your things with her and point out how good you are at sharing. “I’m would like to share my lip balm with you. It feels really nice to share. Okay, now I would like to use it again. May I play with it for a minute? Okay now I’d like to share it with you again” If she is demanding something of yours, use it as an opportunity to request that she ask nicely. Try to avoid rewarding her when she is grabby at something in your own hand, even a cookie- by just handing it to her as a quick fix. Building good communication and patience is very hard work that really pays off. Point out other sharing when you see it happen in the world. I credit this one for why my daughter shares so well. I obsessively modeled and narrated sharing as does her Poppy. You might notice this is easiest to do once your child grows into pretend-play mode.
5) Timed play. In a play group where you supervise, a duo or at preschool etc, you can set a timer for two or three minutes of someone playing with the coveted toy. When clients or teachers first come to me, they have heard that young people have no concept of time. Well, they don’t, until you teach them! By consistently showing what 2 minutes feels like. You must follow through with the switch in toy time, or you lose trust. We build patience this way, and that’s brilliant! As I teach in my workshops and coaching practice- this “if/then, when/then” approach works well with whining and as a way to say no in a specific and positive way.
6) Logical Reinforcement. I’m not always big on positive reinforcement as a way to manipulate children, but this topic is one where it is very logical because we are already dealing with material items. “When I hear or see you have a good sharing day at school, sharing toys with friends, I will feel like sharing some stickers (or a scone or my iPhone app!) with you after lunch/after school!”. Sharing does tend to beget sharing in the real world anyway!
7) Practice together! Make art or baked goods and share them with others! “We just get a little bit, but then we will share the rest so we can help other people feel happy!”
8) Start Socializing Early in Groups. Whether it be a class setting or an informal group of friends, regular, early meetings with babies around the same age with communal toys to share is an ideal start. It helps to have some things which do not belong to anyone and to share communal experiences around a table, water play or sand box so that tools can be shared and switched. Even if your child is a “grabber”, continue to covet these environments and try to let go of what others think of your child/parenting. How can we learn if there are never any opportunities to be gently corrected, and to improve?
Tots at Genius: A Baby Academy in Seattle sharing a water play experience and toys.
9) After all, be patient. Sharing takes a while for most children. Before 5-ish (or without modeling, or without being schooled in empathy by parents), young children still don’t understand the boundaries between you and me, him and her, yours and mine, my desires and yours etc. This is a beautiful part of your child’s identity as a new person on the planet. We must respect the process by being a gentle teacher, and giving it time. Also recognize your child’s unique personality, challenges and attachments as reasons why sharing comes earlier or later for some children.
MamaLady Parent Education & Coaching
moorea malatt hicks at gmail dot com
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