From most people’s perspective, it’s easy to see that sharing is a significant social skill and we automatically associate it with kindness. I believe if we stepped back and looked at this topic from a different standpoint, our expectations would change and we just may see a difference in how they handle sharing. I think as adults we don’t always realize how ridiculous the idea of sharing can be. And kids are always expected to share without question. In the early years, their brains are not programmed to share naturally and that’s why it’s so difficult for every single child at some point if it’s something you expect from them. It’s even difficult for adults, do you love sharing? I don’t always.
Imagine you’re working on an important paper for work or for school and you’re right in the middle of it having invested your time and efforts, when someone decides to walk up and tell you, “Time’s up! It’s Jessica’s turn with your computer.” You’ve been working endlessly on that project all day and out of nowhere it’s time for Jessica’s turn. Now how about I add in that once Jessica begins using your computer, she then closes out the window without saving it to carry on with what she wants to do. Would you not throw a tantrum? Think about how hard it would be in that moment not to and resisting the urge to hit.
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully believe there are benefits to sharing. It is still important for us to help guide our children in the right direction. Here are a few different ways I encourage sharing without forcing the concept of sharing:
Practice a “no sharing” rule: When your child has a toy that another child wants, they are allowed to keep it for as long as they want. When the other child decides they want the same toy, they have two options.
1. The child who wants the toy while it’s currently being played with can sit and watch the one playing with the toy until they finished and put it down. At this point, the toy is up for grabs.
2. The other child can pick something else to play with while the desired toy is occupied. And again, once the original toy is put down, it then becomes up for grabs.
As your children grow older, you can add an additional option of asking if they can play with the toy together since their brains have developed more by ages 3-4 and adapt more naturally to the idea of sharing. The child who originally has been playing with the toy has the right to say no, in which case then the other child can revert back to options 1 or 2.
Teach compromise and have open conversations: Oftentimes, sharing for the sake of sharing isn’t the way to go and can result in a lot of weighted frustration on our end as parents feeling the need to keep reinforcing something that just isn’t sticking. I think it’s very important to keep the communication there and have your children say what they want and work together to find a way so both parties can be happy. Using a conflict resolution technique to help walk them through a situation where more than one child wants the same thing.
Model sharing out of love: What better way to incorporate sharing into your kids lives when they learn best through us as their parents? They’re always watching how we do things as well as listening to our words. This one is very simple: share with other adults and your kids. Try to be mindful to do it from a loving, genuine place rather than doing it because you feel forced. Keep that communication open and express to your children how sharing made you feel.
If you’re at someone else’s house, their values come first: This is not something set in stone, it’s just my personal view where if you’re at someone else’s home for a playdate, I believe there is a great importance to teach your children that every family has different rules and ideologies – therefore we should respect them. I let the other mother take the lead, though if she doesn’t have a structure in place for sharing, I would suggest the “it’s yours until you put it down, then it’s fair game."
There are many ways to go about sharing when situations arise, though I’ve learned it’s more easily resolved by empathizing with their desire to play with the toy another child is having a turn with. Forming the right sentence of understanding can make all the difference in their reaction. I.E “I know you really want to play with that toy right now…” Once the choice of how and when are left in their hands, even young children can be understanding and even end up offering a turn within seconds. That little lightbulb goes off in their heads when we model the behavior we want to see. And even if they do still continue to play with the toy, young kids attention spans are short and without pressure from adults will likely do it within their own timeframe. As children get older, they learn to do this on their own with practice. Isn’t that what everything takes is some practice? What do you find works for your children when it comes to sharing or are you a firm believer in a “no sharing” rule?
What are some things you follow around share/no share? Feel free to share with us in the comments!
Photo credits: Heather Nicholson