4 Tips to Help Your Child Learn to Share

Children playing together with toys

4 Tips to Help Your Child Learn to Share

Are you finding it hard to teach your little one how to share? You’re not alone.  

As most parents of  toddlers can tell you, motivating a little one to share is challenging, to say the least. Young children are naturally focused on their own needs and feelings. They learn to share gradually over time as adults model how to share, read books about sharing and provide plenty of opportunities for their child to practice sharing. 

Lynn Louise Wonders, MA, LPC, RPT-S, an early childhood development and parenting expert, provides the following tips for teaching children to share.

  • Don’t be embarrassed. If your toddler throws a fit and insists that they don’t want to share toys with their cousin, that’s normal. Children under age 3 do not yet fully understand the concept of sharing, but by age 3.5-4, they are able to begin learning how to share with others. 
  • Be an example. Model “sharing behavior.” In other words, demonstrate for your child what you want to see them learn and practice. For example, take a cookie and show it to your child and say, “This is my cookie. Would you like me to share my cookie with you? I can share this cookie with you by breaking it and giving you some. Look, here is some cookie for you, and here is some cookie for me! We are sharing!”
  • Narrate what you see and think aloud. This is called “tracking and reflecting,” which helps your child develop awareness and vocabulary for what they are experiencing. For example, if you notice your child and their friend both want to play with a baby doll, you might say, “Oh! I can see you both are starting to feel frustrated because there is only one baby doll and there are two of you. I wonder if there is a way you might play together with the baby doll by sharing?” 
  • Change the focus. Sometimes young children need a little help from adults to find a solution to the sharing dilemma. Let’s say that narrating what you see and thinking aloud didn’t resolve the growing tension in the above scenario. Try shifting the child’s focus. An example: “I know what we can do! Sammie can take care of the baby doll while Tisha gets the baby’s breakfast made, and then Tisha can take care of the baby while Sammie packs the baby’s diaper bag!” 

Of course, learning how to share can be difficult. (Some of us adults are still learning!) While it can be challenging, consider these moments as opportunities to show your child that they can be problem solvers and learn new life skills. 

For more tips on character development, check out these resources:

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