It’s perfectly normal for a child to find it difficult to share. They generally understand the concept of sharing at about the age of three, but it might take a while longer before they are actually prepared to do it.
True sharing implies empathy, the ability to get into another’s mind and see things from their viewpoint. However, the power to possess is a natural part of the child’s growing awareness. During the second and third years, as the child goes from oneness to separateness, this little person works to establish an identity separate from mother. In fact, “mine” is one of the earliest words to come out of a toddler’s mouth.
A growing child develops attachments to things as well as people. This ability to form strong attachments is important to being emotionally healthy.
Although children develop empathy, and learn the concept of taking turns, at a young age they’re not necessarily mature enough to resist all of their impulses.
You can sow the seeds of generosity by gently encouraging your child to share.
Here are some things to try:
Give your child opportunities to share – create attitudes and an environment that encourages your child to want to share – “Look how happy you made Tommy by sharing that toy with him”.
Start young – Learning how to take turns is the first step in sharing.. From the time your child can grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing the object back and forth while saying “your turn, my turn.”
Make it fun – share games like puzzles, and projects like watering the plants or unpack the shopping together.
Respect your child’s possessions – don’t punish your child for not sharing – not everything is shareable and that’s ok: we all have prized possessions that we prefer not to share.
Talk it out – If they’re reluctant to share a particular toy, ask them why. Healthy conversations encourage healthy development.
Give children time and space to work it out among themselves – Self-directed learning — with or without a little help from caregivers — has the most lasting value. If the situation is deteriorating, intervene.
Set a good example – the best way for your three or four-year-old to learn generosity is to witness it. Children who have been on the receiving end of generosity follow the model they’ve been given and become generous persons themselves.
Finally, remember to use descriptive praise when your child does share. Instead of vague phrases like “You’re such a good boy,” say something like “Did you see the smile on Sammy’s face when you gave him the truck? He really liked that.” That draws his attention to concrete details of what he did.
Selective sharing can happen up to the ages of 4 or 5, so be patient and reward great behaviour.