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Teaching Moment: How Do You Teach Kids to Share?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 10:28 AM

Every parent has seen their child go through the “mine” stage. Sometimes it is cute and comical, and sometimes it is frustrating. With the holidays behind us and the toys still shiny and new, the word “mine” is probably thrown around more.

Age 3 is when kids start to understand the concept of “mine” and “yours.” With that, comes a slightly off-sense of fairness. As adults we see sharing as equal – 50% for you and 50% for me. For toddlers and kids, their idea of sharing is more skewed, where they get 90% of everything and you get 10%.

Elizabeth Swider, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares tips on teaching children about sharing:

  • Prepare for play. Just before a play date happens, have your kid go through their toys and pick out their favorite ones. Put their favorite toys to the side before the other children come over. This will help avoid potential meltdowns over prized possessions during the learning process.
  • Help them understand. Break down sharing into something simpler – taking turns. Kids have learned how to take turns in conversation, which will help them understand the pattern with sharing toys too.
  • Practice makes perfect. Incorporate sharing during playtime without lecturing about it. Show your kids how sharing can be fun! Practice at home by taking turns stacking blocks or turning the page while reading.
  • Encourage them. As kids share their toys, their food or their space, be sure to cheer them on. Kids love being recognized and will continue to practice sharing for praise.
  • Be careful on punishment. If you reprimand your child for not sharing, there is the potential that they will view sharing as resentment instead of an act of kindness. Explain why not sharing is not nice, but do not force it.
  • Be an example. Throughout your day, be sure to practice sharing. Offer to share your dessert with your kids or a blanket during movie night. Sharing ideas and stories are great teaching moments for kids as well. When kids witness their parents share, it becomes a part of their habits too.

Remember to be patient with kids, especially the younger ones. It will take them awhile to understand the concept of sharing and tantrums might happen. Parents should feel reassured that this will improve with time and it’s not a parenting flaw, but rather a normal stage of development that takes time.

How did you teach your kids to share?