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You’re in the middle of baking cookies.

Your friend walks in and your partner says, “Give it to her. You have to share.”

Would you?


Not happily, anyway.

Kids are making cookies every day.

When you yank a toy out of a child’s hands because he has to share, you are stealing their cookie.

Stop, thief!

You’re modeling disrespect in the most direct way possible and telling your child you don’t value his or her work.

At a recent playdate, I heard the wails, saw the finger pointing, and scrambled to find a toy to distract my daughter from the sharing standoff that was coming.

I’ll admit it: In that moment, I didn’t care about the tantrum so much as my child’s reaction. Who wants a ruined playdate and interrupted conversation? Not me!

And deep down, I know I’ll be judged on my parenting skills, based on how effectively I can coax my child to hand over the toy.

In other words, on how well she ‘shares’.

The other parent suggested we leave the room.


Yes, let’s leave! (You don’t have to ask me twice.)

Fifteen minutes later, the kids settled into a role-play game, while standoff  toy has been tossed aside and forgotten.

It’s time to admit that desiring something strongly and fighting for it is natural, mentally and physically. 

Children find the tussle for a toy just as exciting or even more exciting than having the toy itself. It’s evolutionary.

How do we encourage a child to share? Without forcing it?

Two little children toddlers eating meal together, one girl feeding sister in sunny kitchen at home

You’ve got two choices.

David B. Lancy’s book, “The Anthropology Of Childhoodexplains two different parenting approaches. The “pick when ripe” approach largely allows children to pick up lessons on the go- running errands and doing small versions of adult tasks, learning from watching adults.

The “pick when Green” approach focuses on priming children into adult behavior very early. This is largely evident in how kindergarten is moving away from free-play to classroom instruction.

Experts suggest that the “pick when ripe” approach is a better one to take for the simple reason that children are just that- children. Stop projecting them as mini-adults!  

Forced sharing is breeding bullies

Back up for a second and think what a child sees when you force sharing. He sees that the one who cries and whines loud and long enough will win. He also witnesses that bigger and stronger people can force other people to do stuff.

Is that the right lesson to teach?

Sharing can make kids do things (that you won’t like)

When children see that they have no control over their choices, their instincts kick in. Don’t be surprised, if you find one of her favorite toys smuggled into the closet or under the sheets. They hide stuff. And they lie.

Isn’t there an easier way? Are we just going to raise selfish, self-centered kids?  

No and no.

Instead, we’re going to use some easy techniques to show kids how to share.

  1. No surprises. At least, not unpleasant ones! When you foresee an event like a play date or a birthday party, prepare the child beforehand about what to expect. Allow them time to segregate the toys that they would like to share and keep away the ones they don’t want to share.
  2. Teach them to take turns: Allow him to relinquish it with pleasure. Instead of saying, “give it to him,” say “Looks like he likes what you are doing. Do you want to show him more?” Or, “Looks like he is doing something great, too. Do you want to take turns with each other?” Taking turns is a great way of harmonizing the experience of playing. It also induces a sense of fairness and patience in the child very early on. Plus, it makes sharing fun.
  3. Back off: Avoid hovering over the kids. They are perfectly capable of handling it. The involvement of adults could end up shaming one child intentionally or inadvertently and deny the other child the right to process the situation on his own. With the exception of danger to the safety of the child, parents should only watch from a safe distance.
  4. Don’t make All-or-Nothing policies: A “zero-sharing” policy is just as dumb as an “always-sharing” policy. Let them interact, negotiate, squabble a bit.
  5. Teach them to be firm, but still polite: “No” is as good a response as “Yes”, as long as they are both spoken politely. Don’t make the difference a big deal.   If they really do not want to share, respect their wishes. It’s really fine. Let them realize the power of words.

Watch your child learn the fine art of Negotiation!

It’s incredible how kids strike up all sorts of deals. 10 superman stickers for 5 shells from the beach. One turn at a new videogame for two treats. 

Kids learn that in the real world you have to compromise. 

And ‘Good Parent’ medals don’t arrive just because your kid is ready to share. Reinforce good behavior and remember that even gown-ups have a hard time sharing. It’s just human nature.

Rest assured in the fact that will grow up to be fine adults: Science has shown that young people who can stand their own ground are less likely to be influenced by peers during their teens and grow up to be assertive adults.


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