On Sharing

   Some thoughts on teaching our children to share.  I’m suspicious that all parents at some time – especially during those very early years – become fearful that they are raising a very selfish and inconsiderate child – a child who resists or simply refuses to share.  And, so we parents often enter the fray by making our youngsters share with others not realizing that there are many issues involved here – some having little to do with selfishness, greediness, disobedience, or just plain stubbornness.  From a wonderful article by the publishers of ‘Growing Child’ comes this little toddler’s creed – you may have seen it before:
       “If I want it, it’s mine.
       If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.
       If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
       If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
       If it’s mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
       If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
       If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.”
    Sound familiar?  Have you sometimes worked to force your child to share so that they’ll take this into their tomorrows and become ‘the good child’?  Have you wondered if yours is the only child who does not learn sharing early-on?  Could it be that in your attempts to force a child to share, you may be doing more harm than good for/to your child?

    Dr. William Sears has offered many ways to teach your child to share, and I’d like to present some of them with just a word or two from Dr. Sears which he uses to support his position on these processes – (http:11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share:  Ask Dr. Sears):

1) Selfishness comes before sharing:  ‘Mine’ is one of the first words a very young child uses and this attachment to things as well as people is an important element, necessary for becoming an emotionally healthy person.  The one year old has difficulty sharing her mommy – the two year old – sharing a special toy.

2) When to expect a child to share:  Dr. Sears hints that we needn’t expect sharing much before age three and maybe for several years after that.  And, even after four or five years, expect selective sharing.  Dr. Sears states:  “The child is no more likely to share her treasured teddy or tattered blanket than you would share your wedding ring or that heirloom shawl your mother gave you.”

3) Don’t force a child to share: Through various play situations, we would prefer our children to learn that ‘ .. life runs more smoothly if they share.’  (Dr. Sears)

4) Model generosity:  Share with your children – let them see you share with others – invite them into sharing situations.  We must never forget that children learn from us even when we think they’re not paying attention to us.

5) Play games which incorporate sharing:  Kids will probably learn more from a game-type activity than from all of our lectures put together.  About games, Dr. Sears advises:  “Consider the character traits that are fostered during a simple game: humor, fairness, honesty, generosity, concentration, flexibility, obedience to rules, sensitivity, and the all-American value of competitiveness. And, sorry to say, unhealthy traits such as selfishness, jealousy, lying, and cheating can also be experienced through play. Expect play time to reflect how life is to be lived, and tolerate only principled play.”

6) Plan ahead: When we know that a ‘non-sharing’ time lies ahead, plan some strategy to avoid the non-sharing: for example, have a guest bring some of his or her toys to your house, have your child take some of his/her toys to the other’s house.

7) Protect your child’s interests:  If a child has one favorite toy that won’t be shared, help your child to have it despite others’ attempts to take it away.

8) Give your child opportunities to share:  Once again from Sears: “To encourage sharing, Janet gave four-year-old Benjamin a whole cookie with the request, ‘Please give some of the cookie to Robin.”  He broke off a piece and gave it to her.”  

    Be aware that as you behave, so also will your children behave – you are one of the first and one of the most important influences on your developing child.  How do you rank in the area of ‘SHARING’?


One Response to “On Sharing”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    There is excellent content in this posting! I wish I had read this information 20 years ago!

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