How to make your child share willingly?
A lot of parents nowadays complain about how their children don’t want to share. For them, it’s a regular problem at home when their kids don’t want to share their toys or food. They can create an embarrassing situation in a public setting.
“My 3-year-old daughter will fight. She snuggles with her toys in the park every evening when any other child wants to play with her. In the process she never makes any friends” says Neeta, a worried mother. On the other hand, Vrinda the mother of a 5-year-old boy feels that every time her son is forced to share his cars. He will do so in her presence but as soon as she is away. He will get aggressive, physical & hurt the child who he is forced to share with. As a consequence, no one wants to play with him.
- When will my child learn to share?
- How will my child learn to share?
Concerns such as these seem to be the worry of almost all parents and caretakers. Sharing is not something that comes from within for children. It can develop this skill only with constant guidance and observation. This is one virtue, which is better practiced than preached. Observing your child by paying close attention to his/her activities can help you tackle this problem with some rather simple techniques.
Forcing never works
Sharing must be self-initiated to last. If you pressurize your child to share then this behavior will only last in your presence. The pressure that parents generally use is “ If you don’t share your toys, you will not play anymore and go straight home” or “ I will not share the chocolate cake I have baked with you if you don’t share your toys with your friend” or “ You will go to the naughty corner if you don’t share”. The threats that you give might work temporarily but will not help in any way to change or modify the behavior pattern of your child in the long run.
Also never forcibly pull a toy from your child’s hand for handing it over to someone else. This makes the child feel that it is okay to use force and snatch the toy from anyone’s hand. By using physical force you are teaching your child to do the same. It is much better to use a serious tone while you lend your hand out asking for the toy than pulling it away. Hence if you find your child not sharing, the first thing to do is never force.
Understand what the child feels
Even as adults we don’t share all of our belongings with everyone. You wouldn’t let strangers borrow your ear loops even if it’s fake and inexpensive. Children think and feel the same way. His toys are his only possession and he might feel the same way about sharing them. His sense of ownership for these toys matters a lot to him. It is all right for your child to have certain specific special toys that are only his and not to be shared. This could be his favorite car or bike. Teach him the way to turn down a request for things he truly holds close to his heart.
However, at the same time, you must explain to your child that park rules are a little different. If he or she will carry toys to the park, then all the other children will want to share them with him. Before you leave the house for a setting such as this or before you have play date friends over, you must let your child know that he must only carry along or take out toys that he is willing to share with everyone. Give the child the choice to pick out the toys that he is willing to share. When you consult your child and involve him in the entire process the outcome will be different.
Is your child refusing to share?
However, once you reach the park and find that your child, despite the talk, is refusing to share his belongings, then don’t force or give him threats or punish him. Try to help him see the same rationality in the matter as you do. The child might not know that his shovel will come back to him if he shares it with another child and he finds it difficult to part with his belongings. Without using force what you can do is give him choices. “Which toy will you share with Rajni? The blue one or the purple one?” Once they are making the final decision it will be easier for them to share.
If it’s special, it might as well stay home
Despite all of the above, there might be certain toys that you know are impossible for the child to part with. In that case, do not take these toys with you when you go to a setting where the child must share. Explain to your child that this toy cannot be taken outside because it is for home. When you let your child understand that the toy might break or get dirty then chances are he may not want to spoil his favorite toy. Slightly older children (age 5 or so) can also be told that they can choose one favorite toy which they can keep at home and not take down to share. This way, you are exhibiting that you understand how the child feels about a specific toy and are also teaching him to share with other kids.
If most parents can differentiate between special toys and not carry them to the park or play area, it will reduce the friction that kids have. Also have patience, since sharing will not come naturally and it will have to come from within over some time. At the same time, it is equally important to teach your child the value of others’ property and that he cannot use it by force.
Sharing is two ways
If your child refuses to share but wants his friends to share their toys with him, you have to help him to understand that just like he has special toys, his friend could too and he might feel very bad having to share it. He must learn to respect others’ property and not snatch forcefully.
Also, it helps to let your child know that by sharing certain toys he or she is helping the other child realize that he or she is their friend. By doing so it will make the other children more open to sharing. They must learn to accept no as an answer and also know the right way of saying no.
Sometimes there may be a situation where your child has snatched a toy and is refusing to return it. Apologize on your child’s behalf. There is nothing wrong in saying sorry on his behalf. This will not only teach the same to your child but also avoid any feeling of hostility.
Must the elder child always share toys with his younger sibling?
Younger kids in family dynamics always want to be like the older ones. Whatever the elder child does will be aped by the younger brother or sister. If the elder child plays with the ball, the younger sibling will want it, if the elder child graduates to painting, the younger child will want it too. The common mistake most parents make is asking the elder child to part with whatever the younger one wants. Always remember that even between siblings there must be special toys that the elder one might not allow the younger one to use, and that’s all right. The flip side of sharing is respect and the younger child must be taught that. Siblings can be taught the concepts and importance of personal space and generosity through sharing.
Another common mistake is to get children to take turns. This is a strategy many parents follow whenever there is a fight for the same toy/TV time etc. However, before you implement this you must remember that children less than 3 have no sense of time. Once the toy comes to their hand, they might not return it, thus creating bigger problems. Wait till the baby is three before you can start asking them to take turns.
Don’t single your child out in the play area
When there is a squabble in the park that involves your child, it is the easiest to hold your child responsible for it. Never do that. Always talk to both the kids involved, and try to find a solution. This is because kids are especially sensitive and sometimes might not be able to process the reason behind your behavior, which might lead to bigger problems. If you pick out your child in the entire squabble he or she is likely to get the feeling that my mom doesn’t love me, she only loves the other baby. Intervene in a manner that isn’t hurtful or resentful to either of the children. Always try to find solutions instead of getting into who threw the first punch. Try to resolve the situation in a win-win manner.
Intervene only when required
How many times have you felt the urge to scold another child when he pulls a toy out of your son or daughter’s hand? How many times have you empathized that your child is the timidest one in the park and thus being taken for granted? Well, such feelings are natural for parents. However, never intervene till your child needs help.
Also, remember that not every toy battle must turn into a classroom lesson for sharing.
Have you found your child sharing with everyone except this one particular child? He is generally generous but when it comes to just this one child, he crunches up. Sometimes the underlying reason for not sharing could be the fact that your child doesn’t like a particular kid. You must work on his relationship with the kid more than anything else. It is difficult to share with people you don’t like. Hence arrange for one-to-one play dates with the child at your home and try to make your child see that this particular child is a lot of fun as well.
Always reward good behavior
One of the most powerful ways to ensure the repetition of good behavior is to reward it. When you see that your child is being generous on his or her own accord, always acknowledge it. Words of praise and encouragement might be one way of making the child feel good about themselves. Also if your child is consistently behaving well and sharing well, then you might want to get a small treat or surprise for him.
Appreciation, positive reinforcement, and consistency in the approach to teaching your child how to share will surely fetch you rich dividends. Remember that sharing has to be taught by example. Share your sunglasses or your cap with him and ask to try on his glasses, cap, etc. You can even do this for some food items that you may be eating.
Children find it difficult to give anyone even one bite out of what they are eating (i.e. if they like it). So, tell your child that what you are having is very tasty and ask if he wants a bite. That will teach him to willingly share his food with siblings and friends when the time comes. Every time you enact the virtue of sharing let your child know what you are doing. This will help them to enact the same principles later. The best way to learn and understand sharing for your child is by observation.
Some other tips on Sharing Concept
- If you have 2 children, get some toys that are common for them and encourage them to share the toys. If they are old enough they will understand the concept of taking turns and share better. This way, children become less possessive about things.
- If the children are older (6 years or more) the toy can be kept away till they work out a solution and get back to the parent on how they will share it.
- Sharing should go beyond just material possessions. We’ve already spoken about sharing things like food. Also encourage your child to share their thoughts with you-what happened in their day, the happiest time and saddest time of their day, etc. Do this at bedtime when tucking them in. This way sharing will go beyond material possessions. If you have more than one child then both children will get to hear about the thoughts of the other. This kind of sharing will bring them closer as siblings.
Top Questions on Sharing
- My younger daughter likes to share all her toys and things with my elder son. However, my son, who is 4 years older than my daughter, refuses to share any of his things with her. I have tried punishing my child and yet see no way of teaching him to share with his younger sister. Help!
- When my child was younger, she shared a lot more. Now, as she is growing, she doesn’t like to share anymore. She is always hiding her toys and screaming if anyone touches her things. She doesn’t even want her friends coming over because she will have to share her things with them. I am worried she will remain friendless if she goes on like this.