Children Sharing Umbrella

 

As an adult, the New Year always seems like a fitting time to make lifestyle changes and resolutions, but decisions to change one’s behaviour rarely figure in a small child’s consciousness. This can be one of the biggest challenges of parenthood – helping your children to figure out how to act and relate to the world in the best way possible. Today, in the wake of Christmas giving and getting, possibly with a whole new arsenal of toys to deal with, we are helping you with some top tips on how to encourage your kids to share.

 

Why Don’t Toddlers like Sharing?

The first thing to know is that it is absolutely normal for toddlers to be resistant to sharing, so don’t panic! They are just acting their age. The twos and threes are an ego-centric stage of child development, children are moving from a stage of “one-ness” with their mothers and fathers, to a stage of separateness, where they are beginning to create their own identity and establish ownership of possessions. This is why some of toddlers’ earliest expressions include “I can do it!” and “it’s mine” – having strong connections to things and people is a crucial party of healthy emotional development.

This new sense of self may impede sharing to an extent, but the real issue is that sharing is a complex concept in itself. Sharing means understanding two ideas at once (“That is mine” and “someone else has it at the moment”), it requires an understanding of time (“You will get it back in five minutes) and it can mean both lending (as with toys) or giving outright (as with food). At the toddler stage, kids do a lot of what is called “proto-sharing” – which basically means allowing someone else to see and manipulate your possession of choice…without actually relinquishing hold of it. This is a step in the right direction, so be sure to praise children when they do this.

Understanding the true reason for sharing means understanding things from someone else’s point of view, but a child’s capacity for empathy often does not kick in until they are around six years old. In the meantime, it is up to you to teach them the activity of sharing, if not the sentiment behind it.

 

So, what can you do to teach them?

The number one way is by example. Show your kids what sharing looks like, by offering to share food, certain possessions, lap space – being sure always to describe this behaviour as “sharing”. They may not get the concept as first, but if you praise them for trying to share, soon they will learn that this counts as behaviour which makes you happy, and they will be more likely to do it to please you. Another way children get used to sharing is by realising that it actually makes activities like play more fun! Over time, as they get older, they will begin to share for empathetic reasons, but when they are still small, the trick is to make the behaviour second-nature.

 

Top Tips  

  • Before playdates with other kids, allow your toddler to hide some of their very special things (tell them these are things they don’t have to share) – make sure they know everything else is for everyone
  • Never punish a child for not sharing
  • Never force a child to share – you must respect their right to their own possessions
  • Let children work out sharing with other children
  • Encourage kids to take turns and use a timer (2 minutes is a good amount of time for very little children) to help make taking it in turns more concrete an idea for little ones.
  • Give them opportunities to share – ask them if they would like to let their playmate have a go with their toy.

 

As with any area of parenthood, seeing your kids behaving badly is never pleasant, but is important to realise that just because your toddler acts in a selfish fashion does not mean they will grow up to be a selfish person, they simply haven’t grown past the selfish stage – but they will!

 

How do you encourage your littlies to share? Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!