One of the most frequent complaints among parents of toddlers is “my child does not know how to share!” The good news is that’s totally developmentally appropriate. Toddlers don’t understand sharing and at this stage in the game they aren’t expected to.
You’ve probably heard the term parallel play before. It’s what happens when two toddlers play next to each other – not together, just next to each other. So if your toddler is not really playing WITH the other toddler, just next to him, he’s going to be angry when the toy he is playing with is taken away.
As toddlers turn into preschoolers, though, it’s another story. Suddenly, your child is expected to share.
So how do you raise a child who shares?
It’s a process (that’s for sure) but hopefully these tips will help.
Empathy is an important skill for anyone in any stage of life. It’s especially important for toddlers and preschoolers who are still trying to figure out how the world works. When your child takes a toy away from another child, ask questions that get him thinking about how the other child feels. You could ask, “How would you feel if someone took your toy away?”
Give your Child Names for His Feelings
Sometimes children act out because they don’t understand the emotions they are feeling. If a child has his toy taken away from him by another child, he’s likely going to feel angry. Since he doesn’t understand what he’s feeling, it’s more than likely that he’s going to throw a tantrum or possibly hit the other child. Give your child names for their feelings to help them communicate their needs.
Give Your Child Choices
Not sharing is not an option but your child still wants to have choices. So give your child choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want to share?” you could try asking, “Would you like to share your car or your truck?”
Let “Special” Toys be Special
We all have things we don’t want to share sometimes … even as adults. Toddlers do need to learn to share but they can’t be expected to share everything without complaint. If your toddler has a special toy or comfort item that he doesn’t want to share, allow him to put it someplace safe when he has friends over. Explain that he still has to share his other toys but that it’s okay to keep her special toy to himself.
Demonstrate How to Share
Toddlers and preschoolers need to see good behavior modeled for them. As a parent, you can do this as you play with them. For example, “I am playing with a fun toy. I want you to have fun too. Do you want to take turns? You can play with it then you can give it back to me when you are done.”
Most of the things we do as adults are separate nature so we don’t narrate them. Though children need to understand why we are doing what we are doing. It may seem forced at first but you’ll soon get into the habit of talking your child through the process of sharing.
How do you help your kids learn to share?