Your heart, as a parent, warms when your toddler extends her hand offering a bit of her cookie. Sharing a nibble of her treasured treat can be the start of a lifelong inclination toward altruism and empathy. However, sharing with others does not always come naturally to all children. How can parents teach this crucial lesson and raise their children to be caring adults? Try these tips.
Teach by example. Children learn good and bad habits from their parents. Even toddlers can benefit from mom and dad being respectful to each other, sharing a plate of cookies, sharing the television remote or taking turns while playing a game. Please and thank-you should be everyday words shared in your home, not words reserved for public or guests. The basics of sharing begin with parents and their everyday behavior.
Playtime sharing. Children, especially toddlers, can have difficulty sharing. According to Lesia Oesterreich, a family life specialist at Iowa State University, toddlers have sharing issues because they do not really understand the meaning of ownership. Young children often think sharing a toy is the same as giving the toy away. Reassure your child that the shared toy is still her toy and it will still be there when their playmate goes home. Remind your child that if she chooses not to share with her friends, they may not want to share with her. Encourage her to think of others, reminding her how happy she is when someone shares with her.
Diffusing toddler tussles. If a sharing conflict occurs, you may have to step in by removing the in-demand toy. But parents should never grab a toy from a young child who refuses to share. Abruptly grabbing the toy may teach the child it’s OK to take things away from others. Instead, hold your hand out and ask the child to hand it to you. If she refuses, ask again. Speak in a firm tone. You may have to take it from her, but it should be done calmly and without anger.
Provide sharing opportunities. Practice makes perfect, and when teaching children how to share, it may take a lot of practice. Provide positive sharing experiences. For example, sharing treats with classmates to celebrate a birthday is a great way to reinforce the positives of sharing. Praise your child for wanting to share with his classmates and acknowledge his feelings of happiness at sharing and making others happy.
Make sharing a family activity. Children of all ages can benefit from sharing with people who are less fortunate. The Christmas holidays are an ideal time to give back to your community as a family. Volunteer to ring a bell for the Salvation Army or purchase toys for kids in need. Encourage your children to save 10 percent of their allowance or birthday money throughout the year. Use these savings for charity. Also during the year, volunteer as a family at a local soup kitchen, work a food drive or make cheerful cards for your local nursing home.