How do we help kids to navigate the tricky world of sharing?

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

Let’s face it, sharing is challenging for everyone, even many adults. And for kids who are still learning how the world works, it’s near impossible. It’s definitely something we have to teach our kids and keep on it, but does this mean they have to just give up a toy simply because another child wants to have a play with it?

I want that!

Recently a parent reached on Reddit after a family get-together where their nephew simply took any toy that their son picked up to play with.

“We were staying with my parents and my brother with his three kids,” wrote the parent. “One of his kids is 5 and was excited to play with our son who is two. His view on playing with our son was primarily to decide he wanted whatever toy our son just picked up and would come over and say he wanted it and would try to just take it.”

Sharing not taking

The parents of the two-year-old were not happy about this. “We were constantly saying that our son was playing with it now and he could have a turn when our son was done with it,” wrote one of the parents.

In their mind this was not sharing, simply taking a toy that their son was playing with. And it went both ways. “We did the same any time our son wanted what his cousin had; he had to wait for his cousin to finish then he could have a turn,” said the parent.

What are the rules?

However, the grandparents completely disagreed with this reasoning. “My parents think we should have encouraged sharing and given my nephew the toy when he wanted it ‘because kids need to learn to share,’” said the parent.

They thought they were reacting in a fairly standard way and were genuinely shocked to learn about the grandparents’ view.

“I was taken aback, but they strongly said we were nuts for our views on teaching sharing,” said the parent. “I thought we had a pretty standard outlook on it.”

Kids playing at daycare

Who agrees?

The post received a huge number of comments supporting their view, saying that snatching a toy or simply handing over a toy because another child wants it, is not what sharing is all about.

“By taking it away while he’s playing with it, you’re teaching him to do the same,” commented one reader. “Sharing means allowing others to play with your stuff, not necessarily the thing that’s in your hand at the time.”

Interestingly there were a few comments from those who work in teaching or childcare, showing the standard approach to sharing.

“Your method is the standard at our entire daycare, and our daycare isn’t particularly out there in their pedagogy style,” commented one reader. “It’s rude to take things from other people.”

Another, who is clearly a teacher said, “In kindergarten, I tell the students that they can’t grab from others. First, they ask if they can please have the toy. If the person says no, then they wait until they are done.”

Set a time limit

Some readers suggest setting a timer, so the child knows exactly how long he has to play with a toy and exactly when to hand over to the next child.

The kindergarten teacher, who commented above, follows this idea by saying, “For a select few students, they need an actual visual of how much time each person can have with a toy, so I sometimes put 10 minutes on a timer so they can see it and check up on it if they’re feeling anxious.”

Another parent also takes this approach: “We have this problem in my family a lot. Lots of little ones. We set a timer.”

Follow your instincts

The majority of readers agree on the parents’ approach to sharing in this instance, as well as the fact that the grandparents shouldn’t be telling them what to do.

“Part of sharing is letting everyone have a turn, which apparently your parents didn’t think your son should have,” commented one such reader. “I think your parents are confused about what sharing means.”

“Sharing is taking turns, not taking something from someone that is using/playing with it so your approach is right,” said another.

And the final comment, which is one that every parent wants to hear in such a situation as this, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to raise your kids, you’ve got this!’’


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