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Tips on how to teach your child to share

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January 22, 2024

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Tips on How to Teach Your Child to Share


If your toddler is finding it difficult to share with their siblings or peers, don’t worry. It’s natural, and age appropriate for toddlers to struggle with taking turns or sharing their toys. In fact, it’s a skill that is difficult for most children until they are around three years old, so it is important to start the groundwork early and give them lots of opportunities to practice. Just remember, children develop at their own pace, so don’t get disheartened if it takes a while to stick!


Before we launch into the tips on how you can teach your child to share in a fun relaxed environment, it’s important that we address what not to do. As we all know, toddlers can be very independent and strong-willed when they want to be, so it can be tempting to force them to share, especially if we are in a social setting and feel that we may be being judged. But, the experts warn parents against forcing their child to share as this often creates more serious issues, such as increased anger and frustration. Nancy Eisenberg[i], a leading researcher on children’s social development, says that children become more generous by having the experience of giving to others and learning how good that feels. The experience must be voluntary though. If we force children to share, they don’t walk away generous, they feel resentful, and unsurprisingly, they’ll be less inclined to share the next time.

So, with that out of the way, let’s look at some of the ways you can help your child to learn to share.


Lead By Example


You know that old saying, ‘monkey see, monkey do’, it also goes for positive things too. Kids are always watching us, and learn as much (if not more) from the things that we do, as they do from the things that we say. When your toddler sees you or other caregivers sharing, it can also be helpful to highlight it. For example, you might say, “Isn’t Daddy kind sharing his last piece of chocolate with me?”


Point Out Other Examples of Sharing


The more exposure your toddler has to the concept of sharing the better. Keep an eye out for examples of sharing in your day-to-day life, or whilst reading a book, or watching a movie.


Help Them to Understand Their Feelings


It can be helpful to acknowledge your child’s feelings when they are struggling to share. Saying something like “I know you really love that train, and it can be hard to share. But, Billy will give it back after he’s had a turn,” can help your child to know it’s only a temporary situation and they’ll soon be able to play with it again.


Practice Taking Turns


Turn-taking is a very similar concept to sharing, so it’s a good idea to also practice it as much as possible. Don’t worry – it’s much more fun than it sounds! Think of any game that you and your family enjoy playing together, and it’s likely to involve taking turns!

·     Cards

·     Board games

·     Ball catching

·     Duck, duck, goose

·     I spy

·     Hide ‘n’ Seek

Praise Them When They Share


If you observe your child successfully sharing, be sure to mention it specifically. This can help to reinforce the positive behaviour in your toddler.


Don’t Expect Your Child to Share Immediately


As Dr Laura Markham points out, when it comes to teaching our children to share ‘there is an obvious tension here that parents need to acknowledge. We don’t want our kids to feel they should interrupt what they’re working on to “give” something to another child just because the other child asks. On the other hand, we do want our child to notice when another child would like a turn, and to ensure that child gets a turn. And when someone else has something that our child wants, we hope that she’ll be able to control her impulses so she doesn’t grab it, but instead will use her words to work out an arrangement so that she can use the object in the future.”[i]


In other words, as Dr Markham points out, the aim is to teach them to advocate for their own needs, to respect the needs of others, and to be able to delay gratification to wait for what they want.


Remember Tears and Tantrums are All Part of the Process


Sharing can be a difficult skill to learn, and different children will adapt to it more quickly than others. If your attempts at teaching your child to share ends in tears and tantrums, just remember that they are still developing important skills such as emotional regulation. With maturity and practice, your child will learn to share.

[i] DrLaura Markham, ‘Teaching Kids to Share,’ Aha! Parenting https://www.ahaparenting.com/read/Teach-Share-Sharing

[i] Eisenberg, Nancy, “Eight Tips to Develop Caring Kids,” in David Streight (Ed) (2009) GoodThings to Do: Expert Suggestions for Fostering Goodness in Kids, Portland;The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education.