Google+ Authentic Parenting: Teaching Your Child To Share?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teaching Your Child To Share?

Many a parent sighs because his/her child doesn’t share. We hammer it into them at a young age: “You have to share!”; “Give that to your sister, she can play too.”; “Don’t take that from your friend, you have to play together.” These are just a few examples of what you can hear when you are at a play date.

One day I was playing with my daughter, when she suddenly ripped something out of my hands and said: “You have to share”, and just walked away with whatever it was I was holding.
It seemed pretty strange to me that my daughter considered that sharing was giving away hat you were holding.

When I started noticing how other parents around my child handled the ‘sharing’ idea, indeed, that was it.

Image: ozjimbob on Flickr
Parents would tell their child they have to share and then pull whatever their child is holding from their hands.

This really does not teach your child to share. All it does is tell them indeed they have to give away what they are holding to someone else, even if they don’t want to.

Let me in on a little secret: children don’t have to share.

If you are having trouble when your child is playing with other kids, try a different approach.

If your child doesn’t want to share a toy
Give another toy to the other child
Ask your child if he wants to give the toy to the other child
Ask your child to choose a toy for the other child
Ask your child to choose another toy for himself
Pick a game both kids can play together with a multitude of pieces so debates are limited
Propose a walk or outside game without toys

If your child refuses to play together
Don’t worry, if your child does not want to play with another child, that is an absolutely valid choice and doesn’t mean he’s antisocial. Maybe he’s just absorbed in his play, maybe he just doesn’t want to be social in that instant. There is no use in forcing your child to play together. Even playing next to another child can be an important exchange for the children.
If the diverted play of the children in your house become too difficult for you to supervise, propose another activity where they can all join in, or ask the children to play in the same room - even if they’re doing different activities. Though generally, if you can go and get a quick look every once in a while, they’re just fine when they are so consumed in their game.
Don’t let their refusal to play together throw you off having other play dates. Your child’s behavior on one occasion doesn’t predict future behavior. Don’t think your child doesn’t benefit from being around other children.

And most of all, don’t despair. Your child will share one day, if at least that’s behavior you and the other members of your family are modeling. Modeling is the biggest part of the child’s acquisition of moral skills.



  1. Great insight, MamaPoekie. I will address the sharing issue differently from now on...
    My toddler said in her sleep this morning "Myne!" (Mine!) :-)

  2. great post. I always feel sorry for the kids who get their toys taken away in the name of sharing. i dont allow my child to snatch from other children but i'd never dream of forcing him to share something he was playing with.

  3. How true! I hate it when I see this mentality. A mother once asked me how I got my children to share. I stated that they chose to share because they wanted to. They are treated respectfully and treat others accordingly.

  4. Great article! I am in total agreement with this approach. Children need to first learn that their needs/desires are respected before they can feel safe letting go a little. The more we push "precocious" and inauthentic sharing, the more likely they will become stingy down the road. From security arises great generosity.
    Keep 'em coming!

  5. This is spot-on. I had the good fortune of being introduced to this kind of wisdom about enforced "sharing" and I've noticed that as I've honored my kids (and other kids' and grownups) in the way you describe, my kids have grown up to be wonderful at sharing.

  6. This is a great post...thank you! I've practiced some of the tips you've suggested and it's nice to get the affirmation here. I've noticed other parents forcing the sharing thing and it just doesn't seem right for me and my child.

  7. So glad to see some compassion surrounding this topic! One thing I don't see on your list: sometimes we ask a child to let the friend know when they're done playing with the desired toy. Often this results in the toy being handed off sooner rather than later, but even if not, the other child often feels like they will eventually get a turn, and they're able to occupy themselves doing something else.

    We also let our kids know that it's ok to have certain things that are special to you (adults certainly have many items kids aren't allowed to handle!) and that you can tell your friend that that item is precious and not for sharing. (We encourage kids to choose a private time to enjoy those items, though, and talk about feeling left out and tact.)

  8. Great suggestions, theloushe. It's true I hadn't thought of those. Thanks a lot!

  9. When there were two children tying to play with the same toy I always let the child who had it first keep the toy and told the other child that so and so would share when they were ready to. the other child always shared within a few minutes. Several friends and family though I was wrong and told me so, but I stuck by it and now the share very well with no prompting.

  10. It's always bothered me when a parent forces a child to share - and have even had another parent at a playgroup try to take a toy from my DD to give to her son - in the name of sharing. Needless to say that didn't go over very well with either my DD or myself.

    At home we try to do many of the things on your list, but sometimes they just don't 'work'. Both children still want the same toy. At that point I will cuddle the toyless child and talk to her about her feelings and also let her know her sister doesn't have to share. We also encourage who ever has the toy to let the other know when they are done so they each get a turn, but when you're 2 anything that isn't right now can seem like forever.

  11. I know Sarah... Sometimes no matter how hard you try, one child will end up upset. There are no foolproof rules. We can only try our best and if all fails offer our support and presence. And it's not all bad... That's how they learn to deal with life's frustrations


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