It is the rare toddler that eagerly gives up a desired toy or snack to share with another child. Yup; your child isn’t any different from the great majority of kids out there.
You may even have witnessed the “grab-and-go” move, where they take a toy from another child and then quickly escape to a corner of the room. I know it doesn’t feel great when the thief is your child, but it also doesn’t mean they are destined to be selfish or live a life of crime. It is normal for young children to behave selfishly; they haven’t fully developed the cognitive abilities that provide them with awareness of another’s perspective, nor do they fully appreciate social norms.
So, what can you do to teach your child to share?
Well, here are a few things that don’t work:
- Shaming. Telling your child that they are selfish and bad because they don’t want to share isn’t going to build empathy. It may have the exact opposite effect. And they may try to hide or deny their behavior from you.
- Bribing. Paying off for good behavior has been scientifically proven to backfire. Paying kids for good grades, paying employees to exercise or lose weight, etc. It won’t create a more empathetic child, but it could create a scheming child who parlays their desire for something else into a little show for you.
- Begging. Pleading with your child makes you look powerless and puts your child in an awkward-but-intoxicating position. It won’t make you more credible when you deny them something or try to teach another civic lesson.
- Playing the “Your behavior makes Mommy sad” card. Children desire love and will do almost anything for it, but making it appear that they have crushed your heart because they followed theirs? This is a slippery slope, and shouldn’t be taken unless you think long and hard about what you are teaching.
So what ELSE could you do or say that might elicit sharing?
- You can demonstrate sharing YOUR items, and be very clear about how you made the decision and how you feel. Make sure that you admit that sometimes you want all of your snack for yourself, but then you remember how good it makes you feel when you share and see how happy the other person is.
- You can also have another person say how they feel when you share with them. Children really don’t always pick up on the subtle feelings of others, and they need to hear it out loud.
- When your child does share, be crystal clear about how good it makes you feel when they do. This is different from telling them how bad you feel when they don’t, and different from bribing them to share.
- Read some age-appropriate books on sharing, and try to discuss how the characters felt in the story. Some kids prefer to talk about characters and not about their own feelings.
Your child may still shrug and refuse to share, or they may want to try sharing, now that they know so much more about it!
How To Stop Your Toddler From Hitting You and Use The Fast Food Rule For Better Attunement With Your Child are two of my popular posts that also help you help your child manage their feelings without crushing their spirit!