I had a proud mama moment today. During daycare pickup earlier, the first thing that my eldest, Amaryllis told me was: “Mama, I kept my snacks so I can share it with Seraphina in the car later”.
For the past 1.5 years, I have been trying to teach my kids how to share. I finally succeeded!
I’m sure all parents want to raise their kids to be good people. When Seraphina was born, Amaryllis was full of jealousy. She would fight over toys with her little sister, and to be honest, it was a little ridiculous. She hasn’t even looked at the toy for over a year, but as soon as Seraphina picked it up, she reached over immediately to grab it and both kids started to cry. The thing is, it was so hard for me to teach Amaryllis to share because the ability to share is a developmental milestone and she wasn’t ready yet. Just like any other skill, teaching kids to share takes time, patience and positive reinforcement. There are many things that we can do as parents to help them learn:
1. Sharing is not just about physical objects
Sharing is also about learning how to take turns at playing or sharing their time. For example, at the playground, I encourage Amaryllis to let her little sister have a go at climbing first before she can have her turn. Or when she wants me to turn on the TV, I will tell her to wait until mummy finishes the dishes first. By doing so, Amaryllis understands that everybody has to wait for their turn, and everybody gets a turn sooner or later, or that she can ask for what she wants, but she will have to wait.
2. Correct the bad behavior
If your child reacts negatively to another child, either for playing with a toy that they wanted, or not wanting to wait for their turn, correct their behavior immediately. Children at the preschool age learn quickest when you correct them at the moment.
3. Point out the good examples
Besides correcting bad behavior, pointing out good examples help a lot too. If we see another child sharing with his/ her friend, you could point it out immediately by saying how nice it is for him/ her to share her toys with another child. Or during dinner time, we can say, “Thanks daddy for sharing your fruits with mummy”.
4. Offer praises when it’s done right
I am generous with my praises when my child has done something right. I believe that positive reinforcement works, and when they know they are doing something right, they will want to display the same behavior again. Children will keep striving to do the right thing if they receive lots of encouraging signs.
5. Offer choices
“There are two toys here. Would you like to share one of it with your little sister?”. By offering choices, you are allowing them to have a first pick, which gives them the idea that they are in control.
6. Prepare for a play date before hand
Put away special possessions before the play date. Kids are more likely to share if it’s not a special toy he/ she holds dear to heart, and is more comfortable sharing other toys. It’s totally ok to do so. By not forcing your child to share, you are respecting his natural possessiveness. Ease your child into the idea of sharing. In due time, your child will learn to share his most prized toys when he is ready.
Also, to prepare for play dates, inform the other parent to bring some of her child’s toys. It may be “old” to the other child, but these toys will be “new” to your own child. If it’s new, your child will not be able to resist playing with the “new” toys, but they will have to learn to share some of their toys in exchange for the “new” toys. This teaches young kids the idea of “fairness”.
7. Play games that instill the value of sharing
Get the entire family involved. You can play “Share your wealth” game. Say it out loud, “Give your little sister a block, and give your daddy a card, and give yourself the flower”. By doing so, you are conveying the message that sharing is normal, and sharing is caring.
8. Make a list
Under a play group setting, I’d often encourage the kids to make a list by writing it down. By making a list of who is going first, or who has toy A first, children are more likely to follow the check list. This makes children feel more in control, which is another added benefit!
9. Use a timer
We have an hourglass at home just for this purpose! If your children are fighting over a toy, set them both in front of the hourglass. Explain to them that each of them will get a few minutes with the toy. Reset the hourglass and when the sand is completely on the other side, transfer the other toy to the other child. In the meantime, reassure your first child that he will get his turn again. If you stick to this routine, they will soon realize that their turn will come. We practiced this concept with our Thomas the Train Up and Down Roller Coaster Ride. This toy is just such a hit with both our kids, but they know they have to take turns with riding it. Little sister has a go at it, then when the timer is up, the bigger sister can play with it. External and internal timers will help children learn valuable lessons that will come in handy later in life.
Just remember, helping young children with sharing is a long process. Be patient and your kids will become better at sharing in time. The ability to share grows if kids have good experiences with it. After countless examples and tries, Amaryllis is so proud of it now and loves sharing with her little sister. As a parent, I could not be happier. I used to buy multiples of everything, but I no longer need to do it anymore. Just one toy per purchase, there is less clutter at home, and my wallet is fuller too!