Everything You Need to Know About:
By the time your children enter elementary school, you should expect them to be relatively good at sharing. Children age six and older like to please others, are likely to be involved in friendships, and understand empathy, even occasionally partaking in empathetic actions. For the most part, they have mastered the rules of social interaction, such as speaking nicely and taking turns.
There are some children in grade-school, however, who find sharing to be difficult. This is a matter of the child’s temperament. When children are more sensitive to change and are easily affected by challenging circumstances they may have a difficult time sharing. When a toy is new or there is a limited supply, sharing can be particularly challenging.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents should get involved if their child is having a difficult time sharing with others. The following are several steps to guide parents as they help their children learn how to share.
Set a good example for your child. Children are constantly observing their parents' behavior and imitating it. Being a good role model for your child is the best way for your youngster to learn generosity. It is imperative that your child sees you sharing and compromising with others, or with your child directly. Pass around the popcorn bowl during family movie night, split the last piece of bread at the dinner table, or offer to let your child listen to music on your iPod. Also, remember to share feelings, opinions, and ideas with your child. For instance, tell your child that you felt sad after reading Old Yeller, and then ask how it made your child feel.
Initiate a discussion with your child. Grade-schoolers are mature enough to communicate about sharing. Discuss the issue with your child and find a solution to address the problem together. Problem-solving before an interaction takes place will help your child mentally prepare and feel more open to the idea of sharing. For example, prior to a playdate say, "When Isabella comes over she’s probably going to want to play with your new game. Will you be okay with that?” If your child is reluctant, ask her “How can we avoid a problem and disappointing your friend?" Try to find a solution with which your child is comfortable, and which offers a compromise to both youngsters. Suggest, “Maybe you can find one of your other favorite games for Isabella to play with first while you’re playing with your new one, and then you can switch.” Agree on a plan of action and be sure to emphasize how sharing will help build friendships.
Do not punish your child for not sharing. Disciplining your child for not sharing, reprimanding your child for being “selfish,” telling him or her that you are disappointed, or forcing sharing, will only foster shame and resentment, not generosity.
Acknowledge sharing when it does occur. It is important to acknowledge your child's good behavior whenever possible. Positive reinforcement, compliments, and praise will encourage your child to continue sharing. Young children seek approval constantly and want to please their parents in every way, so positive acknowledgement lets them know that you noticed and you support their efforts.
Respect your grade-schooler's things. If your child feels that his or her toys, books, etc. are being mistreated, it is unlikely that your child will want to share them with anyone. Ask permission before taking something that belongs to your child, and treat your child's things with care and respect. Likewise, siblings and friends need to be respectful of your child’s things. If a little brother takes his sister’s crayons and breaks them, she will resist sharing with him in the future (and how can you blame her?).
Teach your child what not to share. When your child becomes an enthusiastic sharer, he or she may need to be informed about the things (i.e. hair ties, toothbrushes, earrings, underwear, etc.) that are inappropriate to share. Help your child understand that there are just some things that are best kept to one’s self for sanitary or privacy reasons.