New findings from a study of a group of pre-school kids can make you feel much better about your ‘threenager’s’ inability to share with others. Researchers reported that while the kids in the study shared more when obliged than when it was voluntary, they unanimously showed greater happiness when they shared of their own free will. So, forcing your child to share their favourite toy when in a group may gain the result you want (and showcases publicly what a little angel you have raised). Yet this may in fact be making our kids miserable and less likely to want to share in the future.
Even the most chilled-out pre-schooler can turn into a territorial monster when faced with the threat of sharing. In social situations with other kids, embarrassingly they can cling passionately to their possessions. But even though kids this age usually aren’t eager to share, they can learn sharing behaviours when parents encourage them. So what can you do to encourage voluntary sharing amongst your kids?
- Start slowly and encourage your child to share with you – this is like sharing with training wheels as your child knows you won’t run off with their favourite blankie. Kids can trust that by sharing with mum or dad, their precious blankie won’t be taken away forever and ownership is still within their control.
- Lead by example – let your kids see you sharing and they will copy your behaviour. Kids who have been on the receiving end of generosity are much more likely to be generous themselves.
- Visit your local playground – this is one of the best places for kids to learn about taking turns. A playground dynamic could be a free-for-all since the equipment has to be shared and there’s no one true owner, but usually most kids operate under the unspoken playground rules and act in a positive sharing manner.
- Play games – sharing can be fun without kids even realising they’re doing it. Activities such as family board games or party games like ‘pass-the-parcel’ where turn-taking takes place are a great starting point, as sharing forms the foundation of the rules.
- Be obvious and point out the benefits of sharing – by highlighting the happiness ‘little Johnny’ feels as a result of your kid sharing their blocks, allows your child to better understand the reward,
- Avoid lectures on sharing – if your child is frustrated because they don’t want to share their brand new cricket bat with the neighbour, they’re probably more likely to opt for a very public tantrum than be open to a discussion about the importance of taking turns. To diffuse the situation, take them away and try to distract them with another activity or toy – and just remember that sharing is often easier on some days than others!