There’s something in the air this time of year that brings out the selfishness in our kids. You’ve probably seen your preschooler become more possessive of her dolls or your toddler say the word, “Mine!” with emphasis more. And you definitely don’t want to see the eruptions when you insist your child share his toys with siblings, classmates or friends.
That’s not to say sharing comes easily the other 11 months of the year—it doesn’t—but there’s something about the anticipation of presents that can really ramp up the hoarding aspect of our children and their possessions. That rightly disturbs most parents, who instinctively know that sharing is good for their children’s hearts.
To Share or Not to Share
I’m not a fan of sharing across the board. I think each child should have a couple of toys they do not have to share with siblings, visiting cousins or best friends. However, they should have to keep those special toys out of reach and out of sight, so no playing with the special toy in front of visitors (but in front of siblings would be fine).
For example, when my girls were 6 and 8, they got their first American Girl dolls. But with two younger brothers, I told the girls they had to keep the dolls and their accessories in their room. Their brothers were forbidden to go into the girls’ room, an edict I enforced. That was a whole lot easier on everyone than keeping track of their dolls and accessories all over the house to stop their brothers from playing (well, destroying is more likely!) their dolls.
Tips for Encouraging Sharing
Here are some suggestions to help your kids learn to share more.
- Show, don’t tell. Rather than telling a child to share, guide the child in sharing the toy instead. Role play with your preschoolers about how to share helps them understand the basic mechanics, such as saying please and thank you.
- Manners matter. Children should learn not to throw a toy at a classmate to “share” that toy. They also shouldn’t grab a toy to make a sibling share.
- Fighting over a toy equals no toy. If two kids are fighting over who’s going to play with a certain toy, taking away that toy so neither has access to the toy can help foster sharing.
- Teach the “Golden Rule.” Even young kids get the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is especially important when talking to kids about sharing, as it helps to remind them of when they are the ones asking to have the toy shared with them.
- Don’t always insist. Our kids don’t have to share a toy every time someone asks them to. If you’ve been encouraging them to share and the child is generally more open-handed with his possession, then we should back off when the child doesn’t want to share at times. We should teach our kids how to politely decline to share because not sharing isn’t always selfish. A pattern of not sharing should be addressed, but an occasional instance of not sharing should be okay.
I’m sure this season will give you plenty of opportunities to put these suggestions into practice. I hope you’ll keep in mind that when teaching a child to share, we’re looking beyond outward compliance—we really want them to develop an openness in their hearts towards others.
Sarah Hamaker loves connecting with parents! As a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™, a trained biblical coach with the National Center for Biblical Parenting and a mother of four, Sarah encourages and equips moms and dads. She blogs about parenting on her website, and on Some Assembly Required, her blog on Patheos. Her articles on parenting frequently appear in the Washington Post’s On Parenting blog. Her parenting podcast, “You’ve Got This,” debuted in October.