“Sharing is one of those things that in its simplest form is a relationship between two human beings,” said Dr. P. Cooper White, a pediatrician and director of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Locust Pediatric Care Group. “Our hope is that we will raise children who will go out into the world and be kind and relate well to others.”
Before 3 years of age, children don’t understand the concept of sharing.
“While they may be made to share, it’s not something they understand or do willingly,” said Dr. White.
After age 3, children begin to understand sharing and its value. They start to recognize they get something out of it, as does their playmate or sibling.
“Children whose needs are met as infants and toddlers are more likely to develop a sharing attitude,,” Dr. White said. “We also think of temperament and personality as being inborn traits, and some children are more empathetic than others and more likely to relate that way to other children.”
However, because sharing is a social skill, it must be taught and reinforced. It’s not something that develops naturally over time.
To help your preschooler learn how to share, follow these 8 strategies:
- Give your child opportunities to share neutral items. Before another child comes over for a play date, set aside a few beloved toys that aren’t for sharing. It’s OK for siblings, especially older kids, to have toys that are just theirs.
- When inviting another child over to play, encourage the other parent to bring a toy or two that both children can share.
- Set a timer to give each child an equal chance to play with a certain toy.
- Give your child other opportunities for sharing, such as picking out a special dessert for the family to share at dinner.
- Use distraction to resolve conflicts, especially for younger kids, by getting one of them interested in something else.
- As children get older and have more experience with sharing, help them resolve conflicts on their own. Offer some possible solutions and let them decide how to work it out.
- Praise your child for sharing and being a good friend.
- Point out daily examples of sharing, including those that don’t involve tangible items, such as sharing a story or sharing time together. Also, be a role model yourself and use it as a teachable moment.
“As children get to be school age and beyond, the hope is that they continue to share on their own and recognize that sharing is how you make friends and develop social relationships,” said Dr. White.