It’s not innate for kids to share things. It’s a skill that you need to develop in them. For sure, you know well that it’s not as easy as it’s said. In fact, your encouragement to share toys or snacks with peers is probably met with wild tantrums, angry faces, and tug-of-war fiasco. The thing is, sharing is a complex skill. If you look at it in the eyes of your young kids, there are many contradictions in it. In your toddler’s head, it says, "The toy is mine, but my classmate has it," and then "He gets it, but he can’t have it," but also, "He can have it for only a limited time."
Sharing is weird to kids, that’s why they’re not the most behaved when you make them do it. Nonetheless, there are ways to help them get used to it, like making them be comfortable with it. Here are some ideas on how to do just that:
Talk about what they feel
Make it a habit to draw out their emotions. This will help them learn how to process it themselves. Over time, this self-awareness translates to the ability to put themselves in the shoes of others. In other words, feel for their peers. By then, it will be easier for them to comprehend when you ask, "How will you feel when all the toys in the playpen are hogged by your friend, and nothing’s left for you?" Whenever you teach them to share, recognize their feelings. Are they afraid that their toy won’t be returned? Are they worried about their playmate breaking their doll? Because it’s a special gift from dad? Because it was new? Help them process those emotions and reassure them.
Let them ‘rehearse’
When your toddler gets used to allowing their siblings play with their dolls and cars, it becomes natural for them to share regardless of the people they’re with. At least, the tantrums will be less wild the next time you tell them to lend their toys. Prioritize give-and-take activities at your playtime at home. Let the older siblings ask the younger if they can play with this or that. Try the pass-the-toy activity, too. Set a timer while they’re playing. When the timer goes off, everyone gives the toy to the person beside them. It’s also good to focus more on cooperative games, like building Lego towers or solving a puzzle, than solitary activities. In most Phoenix pre-school programs, these kinds of play are promoted among kids aged four and below.
Praise them for sharing
It’s always good to say compliments to your child when they do something well. But, avoid generic praises like "You did a good job" or "You were so kind." Over time, all of this gets so trivial that they don’t resonate to kids anymore, that they no longer believe it. Be specific in your compliments. For example, you can say, "Have you seen the smile on Mike’s face when you lent him your toy car? He must have really liked what you did for him." What you’re doing here is you’re not just commending them per se, but you’re highlighting the positive effect of their good deed. Hopefully, it will initiate a conversation that would help them reflect better on what they did. They’ll be inspired to share all the more next time.
It’s not easy to encourage kids to share. It’s a strange thing for them. Hopefully, through your patience and grace, you can teach them this valuable lesson they need in life.