Sharing is one of those life lessons you need to teach your children as soon as possible. The younger they are when they learn, the easier it will be for them to adapt to this skill and use it throughout their life. Sharing will help them make friends on the playground and in school, as well as benefit them as they get older and go out on their own and get established in the workplace. Here are fourteen tips on teaching your child to share.

1. Give them the choice.

Forcing your child to share will just make it more difficult to get them to do it on their own later. If you give your child a choice, they will feel more involved in the situation, and they will feel like their feelings are being considered. Ask your child if he or she would mind sharing certain toys with a friend, or their snack with a sibling. If the child says no, explain why they should be willing to share. If they say yes, praise them for making a kind and considerate decision.

2. Know when to expect them to share.

Don’t always expect your child to be willing to share everything! Expect them to share toys they have lots of, like Legos or dolls when friends are over. Make sure they know what you expect of them, too! Be reasonable when it comes to new or favorite toys. Do you like sharing things you value? Of course not! It’s only natural to feel this way whether you’re an adult or a child!

3. Teach them it’s not permanent/giving up belongings.

Make sure your child knows that sharing is temporary. Sharing is allowing a friend to borrow what is yours. It will only last during the play date, and then the toy will go back to belonging to only your child. Sharing goes much smoother if the child knows that they’re not permanently giving up anything that belongs to them.

4. Try different terminology.

If your child consistently throws a fit when asked to share anything with anyone, try using different terminology. Call it “borrowing” or “taking turns” instead of “sharing.” Explain that borrowing is temporary, or that taking turns means after your child’s friend plays with it, your child will have another chance for it. Sometimes an aversion to sharing can simply mean that your child doesn’t really understand the scope of the word’s meaning.

5. Use a clock or timer.

Using a timer when taking turns shows all children involved that you’re being fair. They will know how much time they have to play with a certain toy, and that once the timer buzzes, they have to switch with the next child. Instead of making the time limit seem like a restriction, make it into a game! For example, challenge each child to see how many things they can build with a toy before their time is up.

6. Connect with your child.

Studies show that children who are closer to their parents are better at sharing. They feel like they get enough love and attention from their families, so they are less focused on inanimate objects, and understand that they should give just as much as they’re getting. Children secure in their place in the family are more likely to reach out and be generous to other children.

7. Let them have toys just for them, or put away toys before a play date.

Everyone has favorite toys, and if your child doesn’t want to share these, don’t force them! Before a play date, let your child pick out certain toys to hide away. These will not have to be shared, but make it clear that your child cannot play with these toys either—they’re put away until your child’s friends leave.

8. Take away toys if they’re not learning.

If your child still isn’t sharing after you’ve tried multiple positive ways, take away the toy in question. If your child can’t learn to share, then maybe they’re not ready to play with that toy, either.

9. Tell them they must share to be shared with.

Many children expect to get things even if they’re not giving themselves. Make sure your child knows that his or her friends will be more likely to share their toys if your child shares with them. Explain that this means everyone will get to play with multiple new (to them) toys at each play date.

10. Explain why sharing is important.

Your child might be too young to understand, but try to explain why sharing is important in their life. Let them know how sharing helps them make and keep friends, how it makes them look like a kind and generous person that others will want to be nice to in return.

11. Show examples of sharing in everyday life.

When you’re out in public and see people being kind and sharing, make sure to point it out to your child. Along that same line, if you’re out with your spouse or other children and your youngest shares something, make an example of it. Point it out to who you’re with and comment on how sweet your child is being by sharing openly.

12. Share more than just toys and food.

Demonstrate how more things are shared than just material goods like toys and food. You can loan out clothes, money (cautiously!), and time. While it may not be considered “sharing,” make sure your child knows how to love and show affection to more than just one family member, also. Don’t let them have periods of only hugging their father; make sure they know they can also love their mother and siblings at the same time, and that shared love keeps on giving.

13. Lead by example.

Monkey see, monkey do! Make sure your child sees you share bites of your dinner, let your spouse borrow your car, loan a friend a pair of shoes. Each time you share, point it out to your child. Make it a game, and ask them to show you when they share, also.

14. Praise them.

Every time your child shares, whether it is done willingly or because you asked them to, make sure to praise them. Don’t reward them with material things, as this will set a bad precedent for later in life. Verbal praise is perfect because it makes them feel special, but it is something they can continue to get as they grow older and are thanked for sharing by classmates and coworkers.

Featured photo credit: Jeff Blum via flickr.com

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