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Get Children to Share

7 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Share with Their Friends and Siblings

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A picture of children sharing

Teach your children to share with their friends and siblings.

Photo © Apryl Duncan
Getting children to share is an epic battle for parents. In a child's eyes, what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too. With a little work, you can teach your children to share happily and peacefully with their siblings and friends.

1. Don't Force Children to Share Everything

Even adults have possessions they don't want to share with anyone. Your children have certain treasures they can't stand the thought of someone else touching.

Don't force your children to share everything they have. Let them pick one or two toys they never have to share.

Reinforce that their other toys are theirs too but that they'll need to share them with friends and siblings. No matter what, the one or two toys they choose to be off-limits should never have to be shared. What you're doing is helping them protect certain possessions while opening up the door to share their other toys at the same time.

2. Host a Toy-Sharing Play Date

Your mom friends will love this plan. Host a toy-sharing play date and invite each of their children to bring one toy to share.

Arrange an area of your home so that the kids will have limited access to all of your child's toys. Instead of giving the kids an endless supply of toys to choose from, you're paring down their options so they'll play with each other's toys.

This group exercise helps everyone learn about sharing. They'll also see the benefits of sharing as they enjoy the time with their friends and play with new toys they've never seen before.

3. Stop the Sibling Rivalry

When you have more than one child, the sharing dilemma usually starts as soon as your younger children become mobile. Older children don't understand why they're now having to share their stuff with this new invader and younger children don't understand why they can't play with everything.

Stop sibling rivalry and you'll be well on your way to teaching your children how to share without arguments and grudges. Set a few household rules on sharing, including one on how you'll handle their conflicts with each other. Use praise, encouragement and an impartial attitude to help them learn to share with each other.

4. Set a Timer

When you spot a showdown about to happen because two kids are fighting over the same toy, make a game out of sharing. Set a timer and tell the kids they'll each get a turn with the toy for a set amount of time.

For younger kids, make the time really short to keep them interested. Even 10 seconds per child is a valuable lesson in sharing. When the timer rings, make a big deal that they're sharing by clapping and cheering. Increase the seconds on your timer as they start to grasp the concept of the sharing game.

5. Help Your Children Express Their Feelings

To a child just learning the concept, the word "share" means this: Someone took my stuff and is now playing with it while I have to sit here and watch.

This usually leads to an outburst. Part of the frustration behind sharing is that many kids are too young to tell you exactly what emotions they're experiencing when they see someone else playing with their toys.

Help your children learn how to express their feelings. Essentially, you're teaching them to come to you so they can tell you the problem. Instead of going from 0 to 100 on the emotional scale, they learn to communicate and identify their emotions. Eventually, they'll work out the struggles for themselves.

6. Only Intervene When Necessary

When your children are first learning to share, you'll want to mediate to help them understand how to share. After the first few explanations, begin to remove yourself from the equation.

When sharing conflict arises, see if they can come up with a solution on their own. Only intervene when necessary. If they're becoming emotional or the lesson in sharing turns into a physical confrontation, step back in to calm the situation.

7. Encourage Alone Time

It seems odd at first. Encourage your kids to play alone to also encourage them to share?

Absolutely. Giving your kids alone time with their toys means they don't have to share 100% of the time. They know they can count on that independent play time to have their toys all to themselves.

Sharing doesn't have to be a free-for-all, anytime/anyplace cloud hanging over their heads. Children can be more receptive to sharing if they know they have solo time to be the only ones touching their stuff.

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