As most parents of toddlers know, "mine" is one of the most popular words in their vocabulary. As loving and generous as you may be, it can be difficult to convince your little ones to follow suit. And can you blame them? Young children often don't understand that the things they share will come back to them, and as a result are hesitant to let go of their possessions. If your child's playdates are a constant power struggle, you may be wondering how to teach your kid to share.
As Dr. Sears pointed out on his site, a child's attachment to people and things are a normal part of their development. In fact, before age two, children have absolutely no concept of sharing. As they learn, it can still be difficult for them to totally embrace the idea of sharing. It's up to parents to teach children about empathy and encourage sharing with friends and siblings. Setting a timer to signal time to share, giving gentle praise for good behavior, and reminding children of the sharing rules are ways you can reinforce the concept with your children. One of the best ways to teach young children about sharing is by setting a good example with your own behavior — sharing food and other items willingly in front of them.
If your child is reluctant to share, try some of these ideas to give them a gentle nudge. It won't happen overnight, and you will definitely have a few setbacks along the way. But with guidance and encouragement, you'll see some signs of hope in your little Scrooge in no time.
1. Set A Good Example
A great way to teach sharing to young children is by modeling sharing behavior for them in your own life. Letting your little ones see you share your things willingly will help encourage them to do the same, as suggested by Today's Parent.
2. Celebrate The Victories
Little ones are always pushing the limits, but at the end of the day, they crave their parents approval. According to Baby Center, parents should praise their children when they attempt to share. The positive reinforcement will help them understand that sharing is a good thing.
3. Use A Timer
Most young children don't have any concept of time, so telling them to hand over a toy to a friend in five minutes doesn't really mean anything. Setting a timer to signal when they are to give the toy to a friend can keep everyone honest, as suggested by Dr. Sears.
4. Reinforce The Rules
According to Parents, it helps to remind your children of the rules of sharing as they are playing. Gently encourage them to take turns with their friends, and remind them that if they walk away from a toy, someone else may decide to pick it up.
5. Come Up With A Theme
You can avoid some of the jealous outbursts at your next playdate by coming up with a toy theme for the gathering, as suggested by Parents. Making it all about cars, trains, dolls, or superheroes, will ensure that everyone is playing with the same kinds of toys.
6. Leave The Prized Possessions At Home
Take some of the stress out of playdates by leaving your child's favorite toys out of the mix. If you know he will have trouble sharing a special stuffed animal, put it away until his friends have gone. Instead, encourage him to only set out the toys he's willing to share with others, as recommended by Dr. Sears.
7. Show Them Another Point Of View
Sometimes you have to walk in another person's shoes to be able to empathize with them. Every now and then, gently refuse to give your child a favorite toy when they ask for it. Allowing your child to experience how it feels when others do not share with them can help you get the point across, as Dr. Martha Erickson wrote on the Supernanny blog.
8. Show Them What's Great About Sharing
Just as kids should learn how not sharing can make their friends sad, they should also learn how generosity can put a smile on someone's face. In the moment, point out how your child's act of sharing makes another person happy, as mentioned on Aha! Parenting.
9. Be Patient
Sharing is difficult for kids, especially when it comes to toys that have special meaning. As What to Expect suggested, parents should acknowledge how tough it can be for their kids to part with favorite toys — even for a little while. Try not to get upset if your child refuses to share. Instead, talk to them about their feelings when the playdate is over.