While being the parent of a toddler presents a variety of difficult but rewarding teaching moments, few lessons are harder to impart on a child than how to share. Fortunately for parents who want to avoid buying two of everything in the house, teaching a child to share can become much easier when done in stages, and by taking into account a child’s understanding of the situation.
Understanding a Child’s View of Fairness
Even though the majority of children don’t understand concepts such as “yours” and “mine” until they reach the age of three, most toddlers do have some innate sense of fairness, even if it’s not quite up to the level of an adult’s understanding of the concept. Adults, for example, understand how to share things equally- half for me, half for you. A toddler’s understanding of sharing, however, is more along the lines of 90/10- I’ll keep 90 percent and you can have this one toy.
Before parents can start to teach their children how to share, they first must acknowledge the needs of the child. Instead of telling your child that he needs to share, explain to him that you understand why he wants to keep all of his toys to himself, but sharing is how good little boys behave. Whenever you see your child successfully share a toy, you need to reward that behavior with positive reinforcement such as a “good job” or a congratulatory high five.
Hearing what constitutes good behavior and having that behavior rewarded with positive praise will help to reinforce that behavior to your child, and make the process of teaching him how to share that much easier.
Strategies for Sharing
To help your child understand and embraces the concept of sharing, you need to place your son or daughter in a position to successfully share, while also highlighting the importance of the trait. Here are a few strategies you can use to help teach your child how to properly share:
- Prepare for playdates. As previously covered, sharing can be difficult for toddlers, especially when asked to share their favorite toys. When preparing for another child to come over for a play date, allow your child to select a few of her more precious playthings to set aside. If asking your child to share her favorite stuffed animal guarantees a forthcoming tantrum, simply remove that item from what’s available for your guest to play with. Even though your child will still probably have issues sharing toys she never plays with except when company comes over, it still makes the process easier than asking her to give up precious companions.
- Use clear terms. Young children have a better chance of understanding what their parents want when asked using terms they know. As infants, most children have learned the term “taking turns” by having babbled “conversations” with parents and caregivers. They understand that one person has a chance to say something before they give way for the other person’s chance to speak. Parents can use this understanding and apply it when explaining how to share a toy- everyone gets a turn.
- Point sharing out. Parents can also reinforce the concept of sharing by pointing out examples of it when in public. If walking down the street with your child and you see to boys playing catch, point out of your son or daughter how the two kids are sharing the ball. If you walk by a man feeding pigeons, point out how he’s sharing bread with the birds. By pointing out examples of sharing in day-to-day life, you can effectively plant the seed in your child’s mind.