How to teach your kids to share (without the tantrums).

Thanks to our brand partner, Combantrin®

We all like to think we’ve raised our children to be wonderful human beings who will generously share with others. So it’s a bit of shock when your toddler takes possession of the toybox at playgroup, screams, “Mine!” and whacks all approaching kids on the head with a giant Elsa doll.

The fact is, sharing doesn’t come naturally to little kids. Two-year-olds are a bit young to grasp the concept. As far as they’re concerned, they’re the centre of the universe. They just can’t see things from anyone else’s point of view. Plus, the idea that someone else is going to play with their shiny red car for “just a few minutes,” isn’t something they can get their heads around.

From three to four years, toddlers can start to understand the idea of sharing. But it can still be a challenge, to hand over their toys to someone else, believe me – the screams are still ringing in my ears.

Yet, it’s an important thing to learn. A child who refuses to share anything will find it hard to make friends at preschool. Plus, we’ve all met those adults who write their names on their stapler at work or on their milk carton in the share-house fridge. Not attractive, is it?

Sure, sharing playtime and toys can mean kids end up sharing everything, including germs and worms, but an itchy bum can be quickly cleared up with a few of those “chocolate” squares. Ultimately, that’s a small price to pay for the joys of friendship and a happier schooling experience.

So, how do you get your child to become one of those lovely littlies who happily share with others? Well, here are a few things to try.

1. Set an example.

Your children model their behaviour on what they see you doing. So make sure you share a lot with your partner and kids and talk about it. “Hey, do you want to share this bowl of cherries with me?” “Look, I’ve got this set of farm animals. Shall we share them?”

teaching kids to share
Set a good example. Image via iStock.

2. Play games.

Ask your toddler to hand around a box of biscuits, or share pencils or blocks among the family. Make sure to thank them. You can also get your child to act out how they would share with other kids in a group.

3. Make it easy.

If you’re taking your child to someone else’s house, bring toys, and ask other parents to do the same if they’re visiting you. If there are plenty of interesting playthings around, it’s easier to let another kid have some.

It’s also important to respect children’s most precious possessions. If a particular toy means a lot to a child, they shouldn’t have to share it. I would always hide away my kids’ most special things before other kids came around, to avoid any trouble.

4. Give praise.

Keep an eye out for good behaviour, not just bad behaviour, when your kids are playing with others. Jump in with, “Nice sharing!” or tell your child afterwards, “I liked the way you let Sophie play with your trains. She had a really good time here and I’m sure she’ll want to come back.” Kids love to win your approval.

teaching kids to share
“If you’re taking your child to someone else’s house, bring toys, and ask other parents to do the same if they’re visiting you.” Image via iStock.

5. Time it.

If you have two children who both want to play with the same toy, tell them they can each have it for 10 minutes, and set the timer. This works well for kids like mine who are always wailing, “But it’s not fair!”

6. Take it away.

If your kids are coming to blows over a particular toy, take it away from both of them. Tell them they can have it back when they agree on how they’re going to share it. It shouldn’t take them long to realise that sharing a toy is better than not having it at all.

How do you teach your kids to share?