Have you ever watched your children grab toys away from each other and yell the words, “That’s mine!”? Young children are naturally self-centered, but you can begin teaching the concept of sharing even at an early age. Author Judith H. Steele provides the following tips for teaching your kids how to share.
How to Explain Sharing
Explain to your children why they should share. Let them know that it makes other people feel good, just as your child feels good when someone shares with him. Then encourage him to share with other children in order to give them happiness as well. Let him know that sharing is about taking turns – it doesn’t mean that your child can’t play with a toy at all, only that the other children need to have a turn as well.
Recognize Problem Areas
If your children have a few items that are most special to them, put them away when friends come over to play. This will eliminate some frustration and make sharing more enjoyable. If you notice that your children seem to share fairly well, except when it comes to a favorite toy, then keep that toy out of the common play areas.
Reward Good Behavior
When you see your children sharing, praise them for their good behavior. Be specific with what you are praising them for and why their behavior was good. Then after the playtime, give them a simple reward.
Conflict Resolution for Kids
Encourage your children to work out their differences on their own. If a child cries to you that someone took his toy, reassure him that it’s OK and he can play with another toy for awhile. Don’t be anxious to step in and fix the situation. However, if the conflict escalates or you see a child try to bully another one, step in and explain to your children how they need to treat each other. Then walk them through how to properly handle the situation. At that point, give them the option of either working out a system of sharing or putting away the toy for the rest of the play period.
Encourage Group Activities
Provide plenty of games and activities (such as building blocks) that the children can play with and use together. This will give them the foundations for sharing and encourage interaction at the same time.
Don’t Get Frustrated; They’re Learning
Don’t expect perfect sharing behavior immediately. Give your children time to gradually absorb the concepts of generosity and sharing. The transition from being a self-focused toddler to a maturing, other-aware child is a long, complicated process. As your children become aware of the needs and feelings of other people, they won’t always succeed in being sensitive to those needs. Be patient and praise them when you see them beginning to show empathy, compassion, and concern for other people. Praise them when they share their toys or try to resolve their own conflicts peacefully without tattling. But during the times they fail, gently remind them of how to treat others without calling them “bad” or “selfish.” Be patient with your children as they grow into selfless and giving adults.
Adapted from: Parenting magazine: “Teaching Kids to Share,” by Judith H. Steele (http://www.parenting.com/)