Helping Kids Learn to Share

Cara KrennCara Krenn is a writer, editor, and mom to fraternal twin girls and a singleton boy. She is the author of the e-book Twinthusiasm: Survival Lessons for Your First Year Raising Twins and blogs at www.twinthusiasm.com.

As a mother of twins, I’ve experienced plenty of squabbles over belongings. “MINE!” is one of the first words toddlers latch onto, and sharing can be hard for little ones who don’t yet understand empathy. However, teaching your kids how to share is an important life skill. Here are a few tips that can help the process:

Talk to your kids about sharing in advance. Before a play date or party, talk to them about sharing their toys. Set expectations for sharing in your own home, reminding your kids to take turns with their friends.

Make special items “off limits.” With your child’s help, designate a few personal items that don’t have to be shared with siblings or other children, such as a beloved stuffed animal or blanket. My children are required to share almost everything, but it helps that each child can have their own special possessions just for them.

Don’t force it. Wrestling a toy from a child’s grip for forced sharing is probably counterproductive. Work with your child’s age and development level to encourage sharing that generates from their initiation.

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Use a timer for turns. Make a kitchen timer or stopwatch your referee when kids argue over specific toys. Explain that everyone gets a turn for the same amount of time. Fairness is important to kids.

Play games. At home, play family games that involve taking turns, such as board games, card games, or your own made-up game where everyone gets a chance to have fun.

Praise sharing and emphasize how good it makes kids feel. When your child shares with another child, praise their good behavior and remind them how it makes them feel good to make others feel good. “Do unto others” is a great lesson to impart as early as possible.

Model sharing behavior. Be a good role model and show your kids how you share and give back to others. Point out sharing examples when you see them and discuss them with your kids.

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