Sharing is definitely an important life skill, when it comes to getting along with others. Children will not only utilize this skill throughout their childhood, but they’ll also reap reward throughout adulthood, both socially and professionally, if they learn to share well. For young children, learning to share can definitely be a challenge; however, this skill is important enough to keep working with them until they master it.
Think of a coworker, family member, or someone else you know with whom you have trouble getting along. Chances are, they’re not good at sharing. In all likelihood, no one ever took the time and energy to make sure they learned that skill during early childhood. Of course, you don’t want people to feel that way about the children you love, that are in your life. One way to help them avoid such heartache is to make sure that they master the skill of sharing, now.
Sharing, at its root, connects with the selfishness we all naturally feel; no one wants to give up something for someone else, especially when they’ve become attached to that something or have invested themselves in it. One day it might be a toy, while another day it might be a coveted position as mom’s or teacher’s helper. Making and keeping friends as well as learning and working cooperatively always involves giving something up, though. Without the ability to empathize with others and lay down your rights, you will find it impossible to share.
Feelings vs. Actions
Children should be told that none of us likes to share and that their feelings are natural. However, they also need to learn the kind of ownership and self control that allows them to realize that they do not have to act based on their feelings or desires; they can be empowered to think of others.
Like most life skills, children will rely on what they’ve seen modeled by those around them, especially adults who care for them, such as parents and teachers. As they witness sharing skills and other acts of selflessness and deferring among those they most respect, they’ll begin to follow those examples. But in addition to modeling, they also require opportunities to apply what they’re learning.
After modeling sharing yourself, a major way to help encourage sharing is to affirm sharing when you see it among other children. Pointing out sharing when you see it — whether it’s in person or in videos or books — can help children grow familiar with the concept and see it as a positive action. Of course, when you see the child you care for sharing, you should praise him or her, reinforcing the positive behavior that you’ve witnessed. Phrases like, “I like the way I saw you share” or “Great sharing” can go a long way toward encouraging sharing in the future.
Continue reading with Part 2.