Sharing is an alien concept to most toddlers and pre-schoolers. Here’s a scenario - Your toddler’s playroom is overflowing with toys, yet whenever his playdate comes over, your son wants whichever neglected toy his buddy reaches for. A struggle follows, and soon the fun and camaraderie are replaced by tears and tantrums.
Sound familiar? Rest assured, most parents will agree that sharing is a concept beyond the grasp of most toddlers. Toddlers are much more interested in finding out what it means to say ‘Mine’ than ‘Let’s share a few things’. Most toddlers can’t conceptualize sharing. If they want something, they just do without any rationale attached to it .Sharing is learned as children’s social, emotional and cognitive development ensues.
Recognizing why you want your kids to share should also be taken into account. Parents often insist their child share because of the embarrassment they feel in front of other parents when their child doesn’t share, further parents shouldn’t force the matter. Getting angry at them shows kids that sharing is just about getting yelled at so it develops a negative connotation for most pre-schoolers.
Instead, you could try one or more of the following:
1. Start young. From the time your child can grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing the object back and forth while saying “my turn, your turn.” Learning how to take turns is the first step in sharing.
2. Be a role model. Practise sharing with your child at home and make it fun. Tell your toddler that you want to share the couch for a cuddle or talk about taking turns while enjoying an ice cream cone together.
3. Make believe. We recommend co-operative games that don’t involve a single winner for children three years old and up. While competition isn’t bad, it isn’t appropriate for pre-schoolers.
4. Bring a pocket timer to playdates. When it rings, it’s your child’s turn to give a toy to her friend, then she gets it back once the timer rings again, and so on. They start learning that giving something away isn’t for always. (Remember to give the other child’s parent a heads-up before the playdate, to ensure they’re on board.)
5. Praise your Child. Finally, remember to use descriptive praise when your child does share. Instead of vague phrases like “You’re such a good boy,” “Did you see the smile on Bobby’s face when you gave him the truck? He really liked that.” That draws his attention to concrete details of what he did.