Sharing doesn’t come naturally to most young kids. However, with some encouragement from mom and dad, kids will learn how to feel good about giving to others.
I remember those early years when I had a toddler and Preschooler who really didn’t want to share their things. Sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get my children to share with each other, let alone other children. It has gotten MUCH better these days but they still need a reminder every once in a while. Today we’re going to talk about helping your children learn how to share.
Generally, most children have the hardest time sharing from the toddler years up until they are 4 or 5 years old. And even at 8 or 9, sometimes sharing is just difficult to do. And it’s understandable, after all, kids get attached to their things and don’t want others to take them or destroy them - much like the way that we value our own priceless items as adults. However, it’s still important that our children learn how to share and give to others. So, let’s explore that a little more.
The first thing that I want to emphasize is that encouraging your children to share does not mean that you should force them to do so. Rather, you should be cultivating an environment where your kids want to share what they have with others. Help them to feel better about sharing by gently encouraging them, NOT forcing them. This is very, very important. Your children are people and if you try to make them share their things, they feel powerless, defeated, and resentful. However, if they feel good about giving, then they feel empowered and thankful for the opportunity to share with others. And this is exactly what you want.
For younger kids, try making sharing fun. Turn it into a game like “Share the cookie” and reward your child when she shares the cookie with a sibling or friend. This makes it fun and your child feels good about herself when she is rewarded.
Older children can be given opportunities to go out and help others. Again, it shouldn’t be forced. Sit down and discuss the different options that are out there and let them be moved by their own interests. Do they like animals? Okay, so let them volunteer at an animal shelter. Do they have a special knack with senior citizens? Then bake some cookies together and then deliver them to a local retirement facility. When your kids are involved in the giving process, they’ll feel so much better about sharing their time and resources.
It’s important to model generosity for your children. When you are generous to your kids and to others in your children’s presence, then they are more likely to demonstrate that same characteristic. As I often say, parents are their children’s first and best teacher.
Also, it’s really important for you to be prepared and to plan ahead. If you’re going on an outing, make sure that you bring enough for your child to share. Expecting your child to share his snack when he’s pretty hungry himself is an unfair expectation. Another important thing is to give your child the power to say no. If she knows that another child is destructive, then allow her the option of only bringing out certain toys during a playdate and give her the right to say “no” if the other child gets a little too rough. Don’t expect your children to sacrifice themselves and their possessions because of the misbehavior of another child.
And of course, having conversations about sharing, using words and concepts that your children can understand is essential in this process. Allow them to explain why sharing is important in their own words so that they can internalize it. Verbally praising children and actually saying that you like how they shared on a given day goes a long way. Words are so powerful – so use them to help your children learn to share.
Kids have to learn to share at some point and with the right guidance, they can learn without it leaving a huge negative impact. Remember to be patient and it will all work itself out.