Most children are not big fans of sharing, but to make sharing part of life from toddler-hood on up has its advantages.
“Maybe I just didn't realize the effort I put into it, but we've never really had problems with sharing, amazingly,” said Michelle a Michigan mother of two boys. For Michelle sharing was such a part of everyday dialogue that she hardly has to deal with sharing-related issues.
Consistency is key. If you set guidelines and don’t sway from them, children will be more likely to follow the sharing guidelines and comply.
“I don't really have much of a problem with the boys sharing, as I've been consistent with my messages throughout their upbringing and always have the last say,” said Scott, a Virginia father of three boys.
Scott also believes that explaining the reasoning to your children is worth your time.
“Where I think a lot of parents fall short is in explaining to their children why certain behaviors are reinforced and others not. ‘Because I said so’ is not an appropriate explanation in most instances,” said Scott. “Children are intelligent and always learning. Take the time to explain why they are to act in a certain way and ultimately you will have a better response, even if it takes some time.”
Sharing teaches children that “life isn't all about them, that it's more fun to have people to do things with and to respect others,” said Michelle,
But do you need to share all items all the time? Not necessarily.
“There are some toys that are extra special or fragile that they do not play with when others are around,” said Shelley, Wisconsin mother of two. And between siblings there’s the importance of learning to respect each other’s “special” belongings.
“I think that at the age my boys are at, 9, 11 and 13, they need to have their own belongings. This is not to say that sharing isn't important or emphasized, but I take a practical approach,” said Scott. “If one of my sons has something another wants to use and isn't using it himself, then why not share with his brother? There are some items that there are only one of, like the Wii, computer, etc. I try to ‘fair-share’ time with these.”
Using a timer that dings is a great way to teach children sharing. If Johnny and Sally both want a turn with the train tracks, set an egg timer for two minutes at a time and they have to keep switching at the ring of the bell. The short time span keeps their attention, and also shows them that sharing will give them both longer turns. When the timer keeps track of whose turn it is, there’s no one to get mad at when the time is up.
Tips on Teaching Sharing
- Be consistent on enforcing sharing rules
- While most toys may be shared, it’s ok for your child to have a couple toys that are extra special or fragile that they do not share with siblings
- Keep special toys put away when friends come over to play
- Begin teaching sharing at a young age, even toddlers can learn to share
- If you lend out toys, be prepared to not get them back in the same condition you left them in (or to get them back at all)
- Utilize an egg timer (one that dings) to set limits on how long someone can play before the next child gets a turn – and keep the time short