Encouraging young kids to share is an important way to help your children develop social and emotional skills. When kids learn to share, they learn how to take turns, cooperate with others, and think about others’ feelings. This can set them up for a lifetime of success in relationships.
Sharing is so important that when we see kids for a developmental evaluation, one of the questions we ask is whether the child shares. Whether it’s sharing a favorite toy with a parent or sibling in playtime, or taking turns at a slide – these are all skills we want to see, when it’s developmentally appropriate.
Maybe you’re worried about whether your child will learn to share. Or you’ve been told you need to force/teach your child to share – and you’re not sure how to do this. If that’s you, read on. You’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
3 Common Myths About Sharing
1. A toddler who doesn’t want to share toys is selfish.
This is probably the most common myth about sharing. And it couldn’t be further from the truth! When kids are young, they’re still learning how to regulate their emotions. They haven’t yet developed the ability to think about others’ feelings. So when they see someone playing with a toy they want, it’s natural for them to feel upset. It doesn’t mean they’re selfish.
2. Forcing a child to share will teach them to be generous. We need to force kids to share.
Wrong again! When you force a child to share, they learn that they have to give up what they want – whether they want to or not. They don’t learn anything about generosity. In fact, they might learn the opposite lesson – that it’s okay to take things away from others because that’s what adults do.
3. The best way to teach sharing is to use rewards and punishments.
Nope! Research shows that using rewards and punishments actually decreases the likelihood that kids will share. That’s because when kids are motivated by rewards or afraid of punishment, they’re less likely to share spontaneously – which is what we want them to do.
One research showed that when kids are given a reward for sharing, they’re actually less likely to share afterward.
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How to Teach Young Kids To Share
1. Model it.
If you want to teach your child to share, the best thing you can do is model sharing yourself.
When you’re playing with your child, offer to “share” a toy. Say things like, “I see you’re playing with the red cars. I have a green car that I can share with you.”
You can also model sharing during any part of the day – whether it’s sharing food during meals or an umbrella when you’re out in the rain.
2. Use books and stories.
You can also use books to teach sharing. Read stories together that show characters sharing and taking turns. Talk about why the character decided to share, and how it made both characters feel.
3. Provide opportunities for practice.
Set up situations when sharing would be beneficial for both parties. For example, if you have two kids and two identical toys, give one toy to each child and let them play side-by-side. This way, they can see that it’s possible to have fun even when they’re not playing with the exact same toy.
4. Explicitly teach skills such as taking turns.
As your child nears the age of three (or earlier if you think your child appears ready for it), introduce the concept of taking turns. Many parents think that this is something children should already know how to do. However, we shouldn’t take it for granted that they know it already. We need to teach it explicitly.
Start by taking turns yourself. Say something like, “I see you want to play with the blocks. I’ll play with them for two minutes, and then it will be your turn.”
You can also try playing games that involve taking turns, such as hide and seek or Simon Says.
The bottom line
Sharing is an important skill that young kids need to learn. But remember – kids learn best through modeling and practice. So the best way to teach sharing is to model it yourself and provide opportunities for your child to practice.