‘Sharing is caring’- how often do we say that to kids?! Parents often bemoan the fact that their child seems unwilling to share things with their siblings or their peers at playgroup or day care. Sharing is an important skill that we use throughout our lives- so how do we teach kids to do it with minimal fuss?
The first thing to remember is that it is developmentally appropriate for children younger than 3 years old to be possessive of their things. They are still in what we term the ‘egocentric stage’- that is, the belief that the world revolves around them and everything belongs to them. It is unreasonable to expect very young children to share, and indeed their play at these ages tends to be ‘parallel’ in nature.
So, what about when they are older then? Here are some suggested tips:
- Remember that sharing is a skill that is learnt like any other, so your child needs opportunities to practice it, as well as your praise and encouragement.
- Model sharing and turn taking yourself (in your interactions with your child and with others)
- Support them in play by talking them through the steps (e.g. “I’ll put the square in first, then you can do the circle”).
- Before other children come over to play, talk about that they will need to share some things (and put away any very ‘special’ toys).
- If two children are fighting over a toy, remove that specific toy for a short period of time.
- Remind them how they would feel if they did not get to have a turn.
- Use a timer (e.g. they can play with it for 2 minutes before it is the next child’s turn).
- Use language around ‘turn taking’ rather than ‘sharing’. Also remember that a child may be confused when you say they are ‘sharing’, but then do not get that thing back (e.g. if you ‘share’ their biscuit!). Try to keep your language as clear as possible.
- Sometimes take a step back and let them develop their negotiation skills- they will get there with practice!
Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist at Northern & Hawthorn Centre for Child Development and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.