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Parent guide: Why learning to share is important

‘Sharing is caring’ is quite a common phrase your little one will hear in social settings. Sharing, whether that’s toys, snacks or anything else, is seen as obligatory from a very early age.

The pressure to raise a child that is kind and generous can result in parents or carers forcing them to share before they’ve learnt why it’s important.

When it’s forced, sharing can feel more like a punishment and your child may stop associating it with kindness and generosity.

Sharing is of course an important aspect of socialising and a big part of forming friendships. Learning this allows your little one to play by taking turns, develops patience and helps them manage disappointment.

Allowing your child to experiment with the difference between sharing and not sharing can help them better understand compromise, fairness, and conflict resolution and in turn want to share rather than just feeling pressured to.

Here are some tips to encourage your little one to learn about the importance of sharing:

Show them how it’s done

Children are little sponges! They absorb the behaviours they observe and copy them. So, as a parent or carer, if you model sharing behaviours often, your little one is likely to do the same.

Encourage positive behaviours

Praise is key! It’s all about positive reinforcements (click here to read more).

Specific praise when you observe your little one sharing can be a big encouragement – for example ‘That was really kind of you to share your toy with Alex, did you see how happy it made them?’.

Making the praise specific will help your little one identify how sharing makes others feel and encourage them to take the initiative to share without influence, for the positive reward.

Guide to resolve

When we intervene in social situations between children, we can interrupt learning experiences.

Rather than giving children the solution (i.e. telling them to take turns to share), try to guide them to find their own solution or compromise. Prompts like ‘there’s only one toy you both want to play with, what can we do?’ can be useful.

Sharing is optional

Adults have the option of whether to share or not and with whom. When an adult is using something, the other person waits till they’re finished – children should be treated in the same way.

If you force your little one to share, it’s much more likely they will feel upset/angry, not generous. This will make them less likely to share in the future as they will see it as a punishment.

Make exceptions

In some cases, your little one not wanting to share is understandable, for instance, if it’s a special toy or if they are focused on an activity.

Giving them more freedom to choose whether they share is going to make it a more positive experience.

Teach responses

It’s good for children to learn phrases that they can use when they choose not to share. Being assertive in their decision but also kind, can help them develop respect for both themselves and others.

To conclude, learning to share is a process. Allowing your child to develop this themselves will help them better understand the ‘why’ behind it and so share because they want to, rather than because they have to.

There are some great picture books out there that can teach your little one more about and encourage sharing. Here are some of our suggestions (all available on amazon).

I Can Share by Sarah Read

Kindness written by Pat-a-Cake, illustrated by Louise Forshaw

Sharing a Shell written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks

I Like to be Kind by Campbell Books

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