How to Encourage Children to Share–Without the Crying

Six tips for fewer tears.

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Photo by: Blend Images - JGI/Jamie Grill

Blend Images - JGI/Jamie Grill

Sharing is a learned behavior and a difficult concept for younger children to understand. It requires empathy, altruism and, most importantly, it must be volunteered. In other words, if you’re forcing your child to share, they are not really sharing because they understand this concept, but because you are making them do it.

Sharing is complicated, especially for toddlers. When forced, sharing may lead to defensive and angry feelings, causing children to focus more on possessiveness.

Children begin to grasp the meaning behind sharing around the age of four. However, before then, here are six ways to encourage this behavior:

Be a Model of Sharing

A behavior like sharing is best learned in action. If you want your children to share, they need to see you sharing.

Give Children a Choice

Children are more likely to share when they are given a choice about sharing. Instead of telling them, let your kids decide if they would like to share.

If your child doesn’t want to share, you can say: “Your friend would like a turn, when you are done playing with this toy, can you please share it with Johnny?”

Also be sure to give your children the right words for when they don’t wish to share so that they can handle the situation appropriately.

Use the Language of “Share” While You Are Sharing

When you demonstrate sharing behaviors, explain to your child that you are “sharing.” If they ask for something of yours, respond with, “I would love to share with you.”

Acknowledge When You Catch Them Sharing

If you see your child sharing, acknowledge that they have shared by saying: “How wonderful of you to share with your friend!”

Show them how their action had a positive impact on the other person, and ask them if that made them feel good!

Relax, and Don’t Forget that Learning How to Share Takes Time

Your children may share and sometimes they may not—and that’s O.K. If your children are not ready to share their toys, it’s O.K. to give them the language to say, “No, thank you, I don’t want to share right now. I will give you a turn once I’m done playing with my toy.”

Intervene Less as They Get Older

If you have been encouraging sharing in your children and have given them the tools to practice sharing, don’t intervene immediately when a friend would like to play with their toy. Give your child time to practice the act of sharing and only intervene when necessary.

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