Lots of people have complimented us on how well our girls share and get a long. Sharing is a lifelong battle. As the expression goes “Pick your battles”. Sharing is a battle worth fighting. Here’s how we do it… and keep doing it.
Helping kids to share is NOT easy. There is no “Quick Guide to Sharing”. There is no easy fix for kids who do not share well. “Enforcing” sharing requires parental stick-to-it-ive-ness and sometimes hand-over-hand assistance.
Step One – do NOT always buy 2 of everything.
If kids always have their own of something, there is no reason to take turns or share. You are right, buying multiples of the same item is easier than being on “sharing patrol”. Don’t do it.
When there are identical toys you end up with “That one is MINE”, fighting over two of the same toy, claiming some imperceptible difference as an identifying marker. When the toys are different, there is a clear delineation of ownership. The sooner you start teaching about sharing, the less time you spend dealing with sharing emergencies as time passes.
From the time our girls were small, I would request two different happy meal toys. Here is why. Two different toys allows them to appreciate the one they have and combined we have more of the collection. If they like the other one, they can share. Take turns. Switch for a little while. Trade.
Please, don’t think our girls don’t have matching toys/items.
They each have their own of a lot of things, but they might have differences. For example, they each have a Leap Pad. They have different cases and different games. If they want to play a game they don’t have, I don’t download or buy a second one, they take turns.
Step Two – The Sharing Rule
There is only one rule for sharing. I was extremely lucky to have a daycare provider with the same sharing philosophy. It’s very simple – an all or nothing kind of deal.
- Share and if you can’t, it becomes mine (read as property of the adult)
I have heard my children say “Its okay if I don’t have one, we take turns in our family”. We share. That is the bottom line. This rule is non-negotiable. There are times when sharing may be delayed, for example if you just got something brand new, you are entitled to have the first look and try, of course. I do, however, expect that you will share your new toy, even by teaching or showing someone about it. Let them hold it. You will get your item back because we share and take turns.
There are fights over toys, absolutely. When this happens a parent needs to step in. Offer the choice “Share or it’s mine”. Protest will ensue – it always does. “I’m not ready to share” “I don’t want to”. The tough part is sticking to the rules. Help negotiate a turn taking scenario, add in time limits “one more turn” “two more minutes and then share”. If the sharing doesn’t happen, you have to remove the toy. There will be tears. It’s okay, doesn’t hurt anyone. We have been practicing sharing since the youngest was born. Before she was actually able to hold and take away toys, I used to help by using my hands to help her/them share.
What I find is that the kids will sort out a solution if they really want the toy back. Sometimes not sharing ends up in no one playing and everyone crying. Not fun, but it works out in the end. Tears don’t last forever. Sticking to the rules EVERY time teaches your kids that you are serious. When we say “share” we mean it. They learn that if they do not work it out, the toy disappears. If you give up on sharing and get a second identical toy or distract from the not sharing by opting for a different activity, they quickly figure out they don’t have to share. Kids will figure “I don’t need to share this, Mom (or Dad) will get something else for the other kids”.
On the plus side…
The nice thing about not having all identical toys, is also that the toys have a better time. All the toys can have different friends to play with . There are fewer disagreement when all the pieces are out. When the Zoobles play together (as in the above picture) they visit each other’s houses. They play at the park together. We only have one park and one carrier. They coordinate with each other.
Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee, ___ in the middle so we both can see.
This little tid-bit I learned from my oldest’s grade one teacher. This little poem was posted in the classroom for shared reading time. Students sit side by side with shared materials in the middle with the simple EEKK strategy. I started using this when we had trouble sharing the iPad. It provides clear instructions on how to accomplish sharing a highly motivating object. Easy peasy and it rhymes!
I promise sharing is possible. It is a battle I choose to fight. Watching my kids play and navigate turn taking tells me it is worth the time and effort.