Getting your child to share his toys may almost be like trying to get him to eat his vegetables. No matter what you say, he’s not going to budge from his decision. It becomes worse should you force him to give up his toys, often making him throw tantrums in protest. All children tend to be possessive when it comes to something they love, which is why it may take some coaxing on your part before he is willing to share his prized possessions.
Don’t force him!
Your 2-year-old son comes crying to you because his elder brother, who is four, refuses to share his train with him. You ask your elder son to share, but he ignores you, so you take the train away from him, shout or punish him to show that you disapprove of his actions and give the train to your younger son. This may leave your son with no choice except to give in, but forcing him won’t instil the spirit of generosity in your son. In fact, this may cause him to further resent the act of sharing with his siblings or peers.
It is not fair to expect your older children to share with their younger siblings, as younger children always want to have what their brothers or sisters are playing with. Just because your 2-year-old son wants to have a turn at playing the train, there is no reason why your elder son should give it up for him. Teaching siblings to respect each other’s space is just as important as the generosity of sharing that you wish to instil in them.
Let him fight his own battles
If your children are playing tugand- war over a toy, resist the urge to intervene and try to solve the problem. This often leads to a win-lose situation with one of your children getting hurt. Furthermore, your children will then tend to rely on you to solve their problems for them. Should things get out of hand, you can try to overcome this by holding both children responsible for the squabble and not blaming it on only one child. Encourage your children to come up with their own solution while holding back the toy from them. Make it clear that unless they reach a decision to play on more peaceful terms, they are not getting the toy back.
Everything takes time…
You can’t expect a difference in so short a time, however, there are some steps in which you could take to help your children learn how to share and to be generous about it.
- Be a role model. Children are very good observers and often tend to imitate the things that you do. Whenever you can, look for opportunities to share things with your partner or other family members, clearly describing the process as you go along.
- Teach your child to share by sharing with him. Try playing give and take games with your child. If your son is possessive about a certain toy, ask him gently if you can hold it for a minute. When he gives it to you, hold it or play with it and then return it to him. Make sure that you only keep the toy for a few seconds before returning it to him. Do this a few times so that he can see that although he gives you the toy for a while, he is not losing it, which will make him more willing to share his toys with others in the future.
- Catch your children being good! Recognise and give praise when your child does something good or shares something with a peer. Simply saying, “I like the way you’re sharing your toys with James” will make your children more eager to get that kind of attention from his mother and will probably want to do something similar again.
Sharing may not be the most natural thing to a child, but with your guidance and understanding, you can help instil a sense of generosity and the willingness to share. Everything needs time and practise, but sharing is not impossible if you bring it on the right way!
Ask, don’t grab!
You should never grab or pull a toy from your child’s hands. This will not only make him reluctant to give up his toys in the future, it also teaches him to be more forceful. When you take things from your child using physical force, it teaches them to do the same when they want something in the future.