Teaching children the joy of sharing
At some point or another, you as a parent must have experienced your child behaving selfishly. You may have even wondered how this sort of behaviour came about and doubt if your child will grow out of it. However, if you questioned your own parents you are bound to find similar selfish incidents in your own past.
The fact is that children are not born with an innate sharing instinct. Very young children have not developed the ability to view the world and the things in it from anyone else’s point of view other than their own. There is no specific age when children magically become unselfish and willing to share. Sharing is something that develops with maturity and every child matures at his or her own pace. However, the right environmental influences can give them a nudge in the right direction. Children learn to share more quickly in a household where adults give and take and exhibit cooperative behaviour. Some children take longer to share than others because they have the kind of temperament that is resistant to change.
Sharing is a vital life skill. It’s something children need to learn so they can make and keep friends, and play cooperatively. It teaches children about compromise and fairness. They learn that if we give a little to others, we can get some of what we want as well. Children who share also learn how to take turns and negotiate, and how to cope with disappointment. These are all important life skills.
A few tips to help you teach your child to share
l Do not label your child ‘selfish’ as this will only make her feel she has a character flaw.
l Accept the fact that there are some things that your child does not want to share. In such a case when you invite another child over, help her identify those toys that fall into the ‘hands off’ category and then keep them away. This will help prevent fights over toys.
l Explain to your child that just as she has certain things that she does not want to share, so does the other child. She should be made aware that just as she is possessive about her things, she must learn to respect other’s possessions too.
l Lay down some ground rules at the start. For instance, tell her that she will only be allowed to invite other children over if she shares her toys. Or, you can tell her that she will have to share the new video game with her brother or forfeit playing with it at all.
l Point out good sharing in others. You can say things like, ‘Your friend was sharing her toys really well. That was very kind of her’.
l When you see your child trying to share or take turns, make sure you give lots of praise and attention. For example “I liked the way you let Madhavi play with your kitchen set. That was really kind!”
l Show your child that you can share too. Practice sharing in the family. It is not just good for your child but for all at home!