My Child Won’t Share! What Now?

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How many times have you heard these words from the mouth of your toddler: “No!” “Mine!” “Gimme!” Sharing does not come easily for young children, and that is okay. It is actually a normal part of the development process. Most toddlers are not yet capable of thinking beyond themselves to understand sharing. But with a little bit of patience and understanding, you can help your toddler develop this essential skill.


Photo courtesy isafmedia via Flickr

Suggestions for Teaching Your Toddler to Share

Here are 8 suggestions to help you teach your toddler the importance of sharing.

1. Explain what sharing is, and make it clear what is expected.

Make sure your preschooler knows what sharing means. Many toddlers will understand the concept of taking turns, and you can use those words to help explain the concept of sharing: everyone gets a turn. Also make sure your child knows that when you share a toy with someone, they will get it back.

2. Prep Your Child for Play Dates.

When scheduling a playdate, let your child choose some of their most prized possessions to set aside before company arrives. Help her decide what toys she will be willing to share and let her friends play with. Try to pick out several items that are great for shared play such as art supplies, puzzles, and board games. Also, ask the parents of the child coming over if he or she can bring a couple of toys of their own to share. 

When going to a playdate, pick a few toys to bring along and share with the boy or girl your child is visiting. This way both children can see that the other is sharing and will hopefully follow suit.

3. Set a Timer 

When playing with friends, if he doesn’t want to share at first, don’t get mad. You want to set an environment and attitude that encourages and rewards sharing. Instead gently explain again about the concept of sharing. It may also help to set a timer and explain when the timer goes off, it’s time to let the other child have a turn. Then, when the timer goes off again, explain that he will get the toy back.

4. Point Out Sharing and opportunities to Share in Daily Life

Sharing can be seen all around. Make it a habit to point out to your child when others are sharing. For example: “Look at that woman.” She is sharing her pizza with her friend”. Also point out times when it would be good to share with someone else. For example, when coming out of a store around the holidays, hand your spare change to your child and have them “share” it with the person collecting donations. Explain how good it is to share, especially with those in need. These kind of behaviors will help your child realize that sharing is a way of life.

5. Model the Behavior and Set a Good Example

Your child learns a lot from watching you. If you want your child to learn to share, then you must share with him. If you are snacking on popcorn offer him some. Share your belongings. If he is always asking to use your pen, let him! Also make sure to model sharing in all aspects of life whether with your spouse or your friends, pointing it out when people share. “Isn’t it nice of Daddy to share his snack with us?”.

6. Make Sharing Fun

Show your toddler that sharing is fun. Play fun activities and games that are designed for two or more people. Put a puzzle together, bake cookies, play a board game. When finished, make a point to tell her how much fun it was to share that activity with her. If she attends preschool, send her with a snack or stickers to share with the class. This is a great way for her to realize how fun it is and how good it feels to share,

7. Understand and Recognize When it Is Not Okay to Share

There will be times when your child just is not ready to give up, and that is okay! Do not get angry, and do not force him to do so as that is likely to make him more resentful than generous. Find out why your child doesn’t want to share a particular item. Maybe it is brand new or means a lot to him because it was a gift. 

Before you discipline your child for not sharing, find out why he is behaving this way. Children need to know their desires are appreciated and respected.  If a friend happens to be over, ask your child to share a different toy instead. Don’t make it a habit, but every now and then it is okay to just let it slide.

8. Use positive reinforcement.

When your child does share, praise him, especially when he does so on his own without you asking or reminding. After the play date remind him how great it was that he shared and give him a special treat. Using positive reinforcement will encourage your child to repeat that behavior over and over again.