Sharing is caring right? But what if your children don’t want to share a toy with other kids they don’t know? Where’s the line? That’s what one mum is asking in this week’s A Problem Shared…
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This Facebook post went viral a couple of weeks ago. It’s about a boy who said no to sharing his toys with boys he didn’t know in the park and how his mum feels it’s important that we teach children to say no. I know exactly where the mum is coming from. My son was in tears on Saturday after another boy broke his toy (accidentally I think) after he lent it to him.
Yet when I’ve talked to friends about the Facebook post and sharing in general, most think we should be encouraging our children to share more not stopping it. One even accused me of being selfish. But just because you’ve asked for something does it mean you’ll always get it? Should we be teaching kids to say no? What’s the best way to teach children about sharing and asking to share?
Our FamilyPoint Advice
Thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint about the subject of sharing.
Sharing, whether that is sharing possessions or someone’s attention, is a vital life skill. When we teach our children to share we are teaching them how to make and keep friends, take turns, negotiate, play cooperatively and compromise. All skills that, if they master, can make life far easier for them.
However, children, like some adults, do not always find sharing easy.
Toddlers usually have no understanding of the concept of sharing as they believe they are the most important thing in the world. At this age we can help them by providing gentle encouragement. Trying to teach them about sharing by giving consequences for non-sharing will not work at this age, as they are not concerned about other people and the effect their non-sharing will have on them.
By the time our children have reached school age however they usually have a good understanding of the importance of sharing. They can empathise with other people’s feelings, understand what consequences are and can see the benefit of compromise. They give a bit to get a bit.
Ideas for encouraging sharing
Anyone involved in the lives of children have a big part to play in teaching our children how to share. Some ideas include:
- Making sure we are a good example. Do we show our children that we share?
- Playing games with our children that involve sharing and taking turns.
- Pointing out good sharing in others – children or adults.
- Discussing the importance of sharing openly with our children, perhaps before going to a party or to the park.
- Praising enthusiastically when we see our children sharing well.
Some children however, as with every other aspect in their life, will take longer to understand the importance of sharing, and the benefits it can give them. Don’t despair. Keep practicing, keep praising and if needs be for a time in public places such as parties, stay close to your child and remind them to share if they seem to be forgetting.
In addition, we can of course show our children that there are consequences if they do not share. For example, siblings might be arguing over which television programme they want to watch. A fair decision in this situation would be to turn the television off so no one child is being favoured. It is always a good idea to be fair and consistent with our children.
Perhaps discuss what these consequences should be with your child during a calm moment so that during a difficult moment, where sharing is an issue for them, they can think about the choices they have and the potential consequences of each choice. The valuable skills they will learn in situations like this are preparing them for adult life.
There are times when choosing not to share is acceptable
However, there are times when perhaps choosing not to share is acceptable. There is a big difference between our children being expected to share their toys at home with their friends to sharing their toys with children they don’t know at a park. Sometimes children prefer to play alone. Whilst this might be a concern if it was happening all the time, if it’s only happening sometimes, we should support our children in doing this. As adults, we sometimes need time alone to do our own thing. Children should be helped to understand that they cannot demand someone shares their toys with them. It is important that they understand that sometimes being told ‘no’ is part of life and learning to deal with that, with the help of adults is another valuable life skill.
In addition, the ability to set boundaries and actually say no, in a polite manner of course, is also very important. Many adults struggle in their day-to-day lives with saying no. This can include saying no their children, to situations in the workplace. We are only looking after ourselves by learning this skill, so maybe this is something we should instill in our children from a young age.
Finally, whilst none of us want to see our children upset because one of their toys has been broken, accidents do of course happen. It shouldn’t put us off encouraging our children to share. The benefits of all the life skills sharing gives far exceeds the short term pain of a broken toy. Our children crying for a few minutes in a situation like this is perfectly normal. It shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.
The FamilyPoint Cymru Team
A Problem Shared… is your space to share both your problems and your advice with the FamilyPoint community.
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