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Family Matters

Sharing -- Help Your Child Learn

September 24th, 2012

By: Elizabeth Pantley

Does your child have a hard time sharing her toys with others? Children get very attached to their possessions, and they don't understand how sharing will affect them or their toy. In order to get a better understanding of these feelings, think for a minute about one of your most prized or important possessions - perhaps your computer, camera, cell phone, or car. Now think of having a friend take it away to use for a day... That feeling of apprehension and uncertainty, (plus a child's inexperience) is at the root of reluctance to share. Sharing is a complicated social skill that takes guidance and practice to develop.


What to do?


Demonstrate how to share.
Share things with your child and point out that you are sharing. For example, "Would you like a turn on my calculator? I am happy to share it with you."


Encourage your child to share with you.

It's easier for a child to share with a parent, since you'll be careful and you'll give the toy back when you're done. It makes for good sharing practice. When you hand her toy back, explain what happened, "You shared nicely, thank you!" That way she has a good feeling about what it means to share.


Give your child choices.

Instead of demanding that your child share a specific toy, give her some options. For example, "Sarah would like to play with a stuffed animal. Which one would you like to let her play with?"


Create situations that require sharing.

Your child can get good practice with sharing when given toys or games that require two or more people to play, such as board games, sports equipment or yard toys. Also look for activities that have plenty of parts for everyone, such as modeling clay or art projects, or building with blocks.


Let your child know what to expect prior to a sharing situation.

Before a friend's visit let her know how long the friend will be there, and reassure her that all her things will still be hers after the friend leaves. Allow your child to put away a few favorite things that don't have to be shared.


Praise good sharing moments.

Watch for good things that happen - no matter how briefly - and praise your child for sharing nicely.


What not to do


Don't shame your child for not sharing.

If your child isn't willing to share he needs to learn more about the process. Teach, rather than punish.  


Don't embarrass your child with a public reprimand.
Even if you've given lessons, prepared your child, and set up a good situation for sharing, your child might still refuse to share. When this happens, take him to another room and discuss the issue privately, and then set a plan.


Don't force your child to share special toys, gifts or lovies.
Some things should be exempt from sharing rules, such as a favorite doll, a stuffed animal he sleeps with, a fragile toy, or a gift recently given to him.

Elizabeth Pantley is author of "The No-Cry Discipline Solution".

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