Your toddler’s room is teeming with toys, yet whenever a friend reaches for the most neglected toy, it is suddenly the favorite. A struggle ensues, and soon any fun and laughter are replaced by tears and tantrums.
Sound familiar? Rest assured — sharing is a notion beyond the grasp of most toddlers. Sharing is learned as children’s social, emotional and cognitive development increases.
Children have difficulty sharing, especially young children. This is a normal part of the development process. Knowing and accepting this is the first step in helping your child grow up to be a generous person.
Recognizing why you want your kids to share should also be considered. Parents often insist their child share because of the embarrassment they feel in front of other parents when their child doesn’t share. Getting angry at them shows kids that sharing is about getting yelled at.
Instead, helping kids learn to share takes patience and gentle coaching.
Here is what to expect—and how to help.
Toddlers are in an egocentric phase of development, just starting to recognize themselves as individuals with their own things. They are beginning to explore what it means to possess something, and they have not grasped the idea that some things belong to other people. “Mine” is the familiar refrain.
How to help your toddler learn to share
Be a good model – If we parents share our time and things, our kids will learn to do it too.
Talk about feelings – Asking “Are you afraid you won’t get a turn?” helps a toddler recognize feelings. Toddlers are good at reading facial expressions, but not at naming the feelings.
Join them on the floor – When two little people want the same thing, try saying, “Could Sally play with the horses when you’re finished with them?” Or offer a choice: “Would you like to share your red car or your blue car?”
Don’t force the issue – When there was a tussle brewing, simply distract the child with another toy.
Talk about playdates ahead of time – Identify items your child is comfortable sharing.
Plan activities for two – A bucket of tiny cars, a sandbox with lots of shovels or a mound of playdough means there’s enough for both players.
Teach healthy ownership – children must also learn to respect other people’s things—to ask even if the owner isn’t using a toy.
Don’t be a rescue ranger – You should step back when children are having trouble sharing. How are you going to solve it? You are still the model for sharing, but it is changing to more of a coaching role. If you intervene all the time, kids never learn to work it out themselves.
Your child's strengths are noted by the staff at T's Learning Center, the top-rated child daycare in St. Augustine. We encourage parents to help their child develop the life-long benefits of sharing. A giving child and happy parent are T's Learning Centers' biggest asset.