While some children are better at sharing than others, it never feels good to be the parent of a child who wants to dictate the toy box. Teaching your child that “sharing is caring” is part of their development and while there are ways you can help your child become more generous, it also useful to understand it won’t happen overnight.
It’s an age thing
As your child grows older, they will naturally become better at sharing. Until about the age of two, children will have trouble with empathy or ‘putting themselves in other people shoes’. A psychological study by the University of Miami showed that children begin to show empathy around 18 to 24 months. At this age they will instinctively help and assist others, doing things like comforting a sad friend or picking up a dropped object. Around four years old, children will begin to understand sacrificing something that they want in order to help another child.
If your child is under four and having trouble learning to share, don’t stress. It’s normal, and they will learn in time.
Even if your child doesn’t fully understand the concept of sharing, teach them how to take turns, and this will set them up to be more giving. If they understand that giving their toy up isn’t forever, and they will get it back very soon, sharing will be a lot easier.
Provide a role model
Demonstrate sharing and tell your child about it. For example, share an ice cream cone with them, or break a cookie in half and give some to your child and some to their older sibling. While you are doing this, tell them what you are doing and explain that if you share, everyone can be happy. If they see their parents sharing, your child will learn that this is the correct way for people to act.
Give your child detailed praise
Avoid telling your child off too much if they are reluctant to share. This will just create a negative attitude around sharing, but you should praise them when they are generous. Say things like “Did you see the smile on your friend’s face when you gave her the toy? Sharing made her happy.” If your child learns there are social benefits to sharing, it will make the process much easier.
Learning to share is a process for toddlers, and they might not understand the concept straight away. As they grow older and have more social interactions their empathy will increase. They will also start to understand that sharing with people will mean their friends and family will share with them. Continue to calmly encourage your child to share and explain the benefits, and eventually, they will be sharing all the time.