It has been 20 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!) I’m happy to share my tips.
Making them share does not teach them how to do it. Sharing is learned best when not forced, but coached and modeled.
How to Model Sharing:
• Point out when you are sharing with your child and when you are sharing with other children and adults, and note how nice and friendly sharing is.
• When your child shares with you, give something (or the same thing) back less than a minute later.
• When your child won’t share with another child, let your child see you modeling sharing something with that child. (But not taking the same toy out of your hand to give it to the other child.)
How To Coach Your Child On Sharing:
- The best way for your child to learn to share is actually to have the experience of having a friend not share with him. This builds empathy if you help coach them through it.
- “It looks like he doesn’t want to share. Do you know what it feels like to not want to share?”
- “It is really friendly to share. It makes friends feel good when we share with them.”
- “If a friend won’t share, you can choose a different toy. If you give a toy to your friend, he might share the one he is holding.”
- “If a friend won’t share you can ask for it ‘Please’ nicely.”
- “If your friend won’t share, you can ask an adult for help.”
- “If you don’t want to share your toy, we can put it up safe for later and you can share different toys.” “When you let your friend hold that, your friend might share other toys you want.
Other Tips for Sharing:
1) Some things are not for sharing. For school or at a friend’s house, your child may be allowed to bring something special of her own that she does not have to share that stays mostly in the cubby; and also an item that they will share with classmates.
We learn what sharing is by first learning what belongs to us. Something they sleep with or dearly loves is an example of something that comes along but stays in the cubby. A game or art supplies are shared with friends.
We don’t have to share everything with everyone, but having something that truly is “mine” around is a good way to help your child see that there are differences between shared things and her special things and that sharing can be safe. You can also model this as well. “This is my special necklace that I don’t share with others, but I would like to share all of my scarves with you! If feel my scarves are safe with you.”
2) When and How to Help: For toys that belong to all children at school, parents can simply let children work it out on their own! Or, if pulling becomes dangerous or creates multiple crying episodes, a 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 the child the personal item as a re-direction in challenging share situations.
3) Don’t always intervene. If there is excessive dangerous 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 so the main thing is consistency in what you are telling the children, and saying it over and over again. Let them continue to work this out, don’t prevent a sharing crisis every time it comes up and don’t physically intervene unless someone will really get physically hurt or is continually crying and needs coaching on using words.
4) Make a big deal of your own sharing your things with your child and point out how good you are at sharing. “I 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 have it back? Okay now I’d like to share it with you again.” If your child is demanding something of yours, use it as an opportunity to request that she ask with “Please.”
5) Coach Patience and Communication Skills. Try to avoid rewarding your child when they are grabby at something in your own hand, even a cookie- by just handing it to her as a quick fix. You can stay. “Stop the hands. Would you like to ask for something? Can you use your signs or words? What do you want?” Older tots can be modeled to and coached to use “Excuse me”. 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.
6) In a play group where you supervise, at preschool etc, you can set a timer for two or three minutes of someone playing with the coveted toy. Repeat.
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 good!”
8) After all of that, have patience. Learning to share really can take a long while. In the beginning, little ones still don’t even understand that there are boundaries between you and me, him and me, yours and mine etc. There is nothing wrong with a child who has trouble sharing or takes toys. Some personalities are even more or less inclined to share. Learning these things starts at home and then takes lots of practice in social settings.
If you liked these tips, you may enjoy my Savvy Gentle Discipline Online Program!