In Part 1 we introduced the topic of sharing by discussing motivation and some basic means of teaching sharing. From modeling sharing behavior in front of children and pointing it out when you witness it in others to positively affirming sharing behavior when you see the child engage in it, you’ll probably be well on your way to helping the children in your life learn to share. But success at that initial level only means the child has taken the first step; the journey has only begun.
For various reasons, some children have more trouble sharing than their peers may. Like any life skill, this may simply point to a personality tendency rather than inherent “badness” or “goodness” of a child, so try to avoid shaming terminology as you address any difficulties. Empathize by telling them that sharing can be difficult, and you sometimes struggle yourself. Rehearse the fact that we don’t have to act based on our emotions, and those emotions aren’t necessarily right or wrong.
Some children will become especially resistant to learning a new skill such as sharing, if they experience negative emotions associated with it. You can counteract that tendency by playing games that encourage sharing and taking turns (which are, essentially, the same skill). Whether you’re working with a single child, one-on-one, or with multiple children in a group, you can give each child a toy and have them repeat after you. “It’s my turn to play with the blue ball. When I’m done, it will be your turn.” Then set a timer, and when the timer goes off, say, “Now it’s your turn to play with the blue ball.” By combining modeling the desired behavior with a game scenario, you’ll have two types of motivation going for you.
If you have multiple children participating in the game, you’re establishing a culture of sharing, and that added social pressure can be a very good thing. Even after practicing sharing, many children will still find sharing difficult. So keep on praising them and talking them through the process.
Once a child clearly understands the concept of sharing and has had opportunities to practice it, you may find it helpful to create consequences for failing to share. For instance, if two children are fighting over a toy, neither one of them willing to share, a suitable consequence would be to take the toy away for a time. Don’t make the mistake of rewarding the child who had it first; remember, the point is to encourage sharing. Making sure the consequence connects to the offense, you’ll be sure to make the point clear to the children, even if they’re only toddlers.
After a time, you should consider returning the toy to the children and encouraging them to share, and through this you’ll be showing that you expect them to be able to share and can give them an appropriate reward for doing so.
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