how to teach kids to share

Learning How to Share While Maintaining Boundaries – The Right Way

Sharing doesn’t mean compromising your own personal boundaries. Discover the right way to help your kids who are learning to share, without making them feel sad or uncomfortable.

Imagine this: You buy yourself a nice set of expensive ballpoint pens with a comfort grip in a variety of your favorite colors. And when you show up to work the next day, you whip out your new pack of pens, and your boss demands that you hand out one of your pens to every one of your peers. And you have so many peers, there might not be one left for you.

When you send your kids into a playgroup and someone demands that they hand over their toys (often their favorites), your child feels exactly the same way.

When you send your kids to soccer practice with a bag of Goldfish and the coach demands that they give a few to any player that wants some, it’s the same thing.

This antiquated idea of “sharing” is not how real life works. And the sooner we teach our kids about learning how to share while maintaining boundaries, the easier it will be for them when they get out into life.

What is sharing exactly?

Sharing, as defined by learning how to share via a group activity or learning what it means to share in a variety of situations where you might not want to give up something.

In order for kids (or anyone) to truly learn sharing, they have to be taught the right way from day one because this is an essential life skill.

Sharing might include giving up something so your friends have some (like LEGOs). It might also be taking turns (like when using the slide at the park).

Sharing is NOT giving up all of your things and compromising your personal boundaries.

Why is sharing important

Sharing is important because strongly related to having a sense of empathy. When kids learn how to share, they’re learning that life is not all about them.

The limits of “sharing is caring”

Sharing is tough because there’s an ambiguous line between what’s appropriate and what is not. And too often parents require “sharing” to an extreme. They use the phrase “sharing is caring” and expect their kids to be completely selfless and offer up their most prized possessions to other kids, sometimes strangers!

When should kids learn to share

As soon as kids reach toddlerhood they should start learning about sharing and learning how to share while maintaining their boundaries. They should also be learning how to set appropriate boundaries with physical things like toys, blankets, snacks and even friends! But as your child gets older (and more possessive of their own belongings), or if they’re particularly clingy, you’ll likely need to also teach them some complimentary skills that can make sharing a little bit clearer.

help kids who are learning how to share the right way
help kids learn how to share the right way

Complementary skills kids need to learn

How to say no

Your child needs to learn how to say no and set boundaries for themselves. Whether it’s telling someone that they can’t use their favorite Superman figure or that they aren’t ready to give up the bucket in the sand box, they need to be able to politely say “Sorry, no I can’t let you play with this right now. You can have a turn when I’m done”.

How to be polite

There are certain situations where it’s best to avoid conflict by not bringing your favorite toys to the sandbox, or eating your bag of Goldfish before you arrive at practice. Teach this etiquette as early as possible!

How to read social cues

Help your child recognize when trouble is brewing, and take action before conflict occurs. Younger kids will struggle with this, but as kids get older, they’ll notice someone who isn’t ready to play nice. Then it might be time to exit the park, or have mom hold your favorite toys in her purse.

Teach kids how to offer sharing when they want to

It’s also important that kids learn how to share when they want to. It might just be roleplaying how to ask someone to build a sand castle with them, or it might be saying “I have plenty of suckers. Would you like one?”

Tips to help kids learn how to share

Here are a few tips to help your kids understand sharing and

  • Play games that involve taking turns
  • Practice empathy
  • Read books about sharing
  • Catch them sharing
  • Role play sharing scenarios
  • Give them opportunities to practice

The Bottom Line

Learning how to share is difficult for kids because its a little ambitious! There needs to be boundaries, but at the same time generosity, kindness, social etiquette are all important traits we want to instill in our kids.

What You Should Do Next…

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