Not sharing with other kids and family members is common with children. Learn how to teach a child to share with these 7 tips.
Kids are notorious for not sharing. They won’t let other kids play with sand toys. They refuse to let go of the steering wheel at the park, and they hold tight to their belongings even if they weren’t interested in them a minute ago.
Normal it may be, we still want to teach kids to share and interact with other children or siblings.
My twins are learning how to share and take turns be default—they’re twins, after all. Add in my eldest and you can see why I want to avoid the whining and fighting that often happens when kids want the same things. I also want to encourage a genuine willingness to play with one another and build a strong sibling bond from the start.
How to teach a child to share
These seven tips have been effective because they don’t force kids to share. Instead, you’ll learn how to teach your kids to share, prevent arguments in the first place, and encourage good will when you see it.
Let’s take a look at the seven ways to teach kids to share:
1. Practice turn-taking
Turn-taking is a fantastic way to encourage children to interact with others in a fair way. Practice turn-taking at home to get in the habit of giving to others.
For instance, hug a teddy bear, saying it’s mama’s turn to hug. Then hand the bear to your child and say, “Now it’s your turn to hug the bear.” Keep the game going, passing the bear back and forth while saying whose turn it is to hug.
Your child learns that just because she gives an item up, it doesn’t mean she won’t have it again. Turn-taking reassures her she can still share without giving up her chance at playing with a toy or game.
2. Praise your child when you see her sharing
Kids respond best to positive reinforcement. You’ll have more luck praising your child when she’s behaving than pointing out when she’s not. No one likes to learn where she went wrong or the ways she hasn’t been behaving.
This applies to sharing as well. Praise her when she shares with others, no matter how small the gesture. You might praise her for thinking of others, for taking turns, or offering a beloved toy to her little brother.
These simple praises will be more effective at promoting sharing than reprimanding her each time she doesn’t.
3. Don’t punish your child for not sharing
As much as I want my kids to share, I’m also not a fan of forcing them to.
Children, especially younger ones, have no concept of sharing. Toddlers truly believe that everything in sight is theirs for the taking. They don’t understand that books on the shelf belong to the library, or that the shovel at the park is actually the little boy’s, not theirs.
Not sharing is also a normal behavior, even for adults. Imagine how terrible it’d feel if you had to give up your items because someone else wanted a turn with it. No wonder kids refuse to share or hold onto their items.
Let’s say, your child refuses to part with a toy even though she’s had it long enough. First, describe how much fun she’s having with the toy. Then, empathize by saying you’d have a hard time giving it up as well. Next, encourage her to take turns, saying her brother wants a chance as well, and that she’ll have a turn after he’s done.
If she still refuses to share, acknowledge it: “It looks like you’re not ready to share. Let us know when you’re ready so your brother can have a turn.” At most, say you’re disappointed and leave it at that. Eventually she’ll give her brother the toy, all on her own.
4. Model sharing behavior yourself
Kids learn best from what they see us do, so share your own things with them. Eating raisins? Share a few with your child, and point out how you’d love to share with her. When playing a game of building blocks, share your pieces with the rest of the family.
As you do, point out how fun and easy it is to share with others, and how it makes you feel good to do so. Then leave it at that—no need to tie it back to her own actions. Let your consistent behavior serve as gentle reminders when she’s in the same situation.
Even more important: she’ll learn that everyone shares, and not just kids. That this isn’t “punishment,” but a lifelong value that benefits everyone.
5. Avoid labeling possessions
Does it drive you crazy when your child screams “Mine!” when someone else tries to play with her toys? One of the best ways to change this habit is by not saying which items belong to whom.
This applies to non-toys as well. If she tries to play with the remote control, don’t say, “That’s not yours” or “That’s mine.” Instead, say “We don’t play with the remote control,” or “The remote control stays on the side table.”
You’re changing your child’s automatic response of “Mine!” Speaking of which…
6. Make toys communal
For those with more than one child, refer to your kids’ toys as everyone’s toys. You’re encouraging communal ownership rather than a single person owning particular items. The benefit? Your kids won’t feel like they have to guard their items from their siblings.
At first, it seems like a good idea to designate a toy for each child, to get one toy each and lessen the fighting. Except it does the opposite: Now each child feels possessive over her items and will refuse to share it with her siblings. Worse, she won’t know the joys of sharing because she’s preoccupied with owning her items.
You’ll likely have a few exceptions. Beloved toys are special for a reason, and choking hazards need to stay away from younger kids. But encourage a shared view of toys instead of a “that’s mine” and “that’s yours” mentality. Better yet, make playing together a group activity that’s just as fun as playing by yourself.
7. Don’t solve their social conflicts
You hear the kids fight, and your first instinct is to rush to the room and put an end to it. The whining and yelling are grating to your ears. You also don’t want their fight to get any worse. And sometimes, it seems like what a “good parent” should do.
Except solving their social conflicts—whether with siblings or even another child at the park—denies them the opportunity to learn how to share on their own. Yes, children can devise ways to come up with their own solutions to sharing—if we give them the chance to.
The next time your kids fight, hang back for a minute or so, even if it seems like they’re not getting anywhere. I’ve found that my kids will come up with creative solutions to sharing, such as dividing it up or taking turns. Other times, they realize they don’t care much about it anymore and move on.
But they won’t learn any of that if we jump in right away. Worse, they won’t know they have the ability to resolve their own conflicts without an adult.
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Even though not sharing is normal, it can still be frustrating for you to deal with. Don’t worry: you can still do your part in helping your child learn to share.
Praising her when she does share and practice sharing at home. Change how you address personal and communal items. Don’t solve their social conflicts, and model the behavior yourself.
With small but effective changes, your child won’t be the terror at the library or park and will learn to share on her own.
A fantastic book about sharing to read with your child is It’s Mine by Leo Lionni. Check it out at your library and teach your child the benefit of sharing:
Get more tips:
- Why Kids Shouldn’t Be Forced to Share
- What to Do if Your Child Shows Off to Others
- How to Stop Siblings from Fighting and Teach Conflict Resolution Instead
- 12 Children’s Books that Reinforce Positive Behavior
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
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