Sharing, whether toys, time, or attention, can be a monumental challenge for young children. The way parents frame the concept and responsibility of sharing can be structured to compel children to buy in. Dads who manage this process wisely do the entire family a world of service.
Super Simple Solution for Sharing Toys
Consider this sage advice from my mother, Debra Brandzen Marek, “If one child wants a toy that another child is playing with, we only need some minor coaching and expectation setting. Tell the child who wants the toy to ask if they can play with the toy. Coach the toy-holding child to respond, “Yes, in 5 minutes.”” (Note: The toy holder has agreed to share).
“In roughly 5 minutes, remind the toy-holder that it is time to share.” (Note: Guesstimate the time, do not time it; we aren’t focused on legalities).
“The toy-holder will hand over the toy. Do not do it for them. The child should manage the exchange. If the original toy holder wants the toy back, then the whole process is repeated. (Note: Possible encouragement may be needed as toy-holding child MUST agree to share in 5 minutes).”
This simple solution works—try it!
Sharing Time & Attention
Unlike with toys, there is no easy button for helping children learn to share time and attention. As we navigate this landscape, put yourself in the shoes of the children. Given their age and desires, relative to the conflict at hand, imagine how they feel. When parents instill good habits (especially patience), these building blocks go a long way in helping children learn to graciously share time and attention.
Naturally, toddlers do not understand how to share. They do not understand why sharing is important. Only just starting to learn how to manage their own emotions, it’s unrealistic to also expect them to understand the emotions of others. At this age, fathers can only play the role of guide.
By age three, children have a much better grasp of sharing and turn-taking, beginning to wrap their heads around the “fairness” of these things. Although often impatient while waiting their turn, we can help them build skills by complimenting patience, encouraging fairness, and explaining the importance of sharing. Be patient—at this age—most children are still learning how to see things from another person’s perspective.
By elementary school, children have become far more patient and tolerant, and have also developed a stronger sense of fairness. Able to understand right vs. wrong, school-age children are beginning to understand the importance of having respect for other people’s feelings—increasingly familiar with the complexities of friendship.
By reframing household standards and expectations that encourage children to be both facilitators and recipients of sharing, kids can take ownership of the process. The simple solution referenced above helps children develop respect for others—while becoming less possessive and more inclined to share.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
—Proverbs 22:6 KJV
Sometimes it’s fun to share, and sometimes it’s hard. This book offers toddlers simple choices (take turns, use the toy together, wait for another time) to make sharing easier, and shows them where to turn for help when sharing is difficult. Little ones learn that sharing can mean double the fun—and sharing a while can make someone smile!
Using perfect vocabulary for beginning readers (and vetted by an early-learning specialist), Mo Willems has crafted a funny story about the challenges of doing the right thing.
Nelly Gnu comes over for a play date, but Llama’s not so sure it’s time to share all his toys. This book is for any child who needs a little encouragement sharing.
Norris the bear has been waiting patiently for the last ripe fruit to fall from the tree. But Tulip the raccoon and Violet the mouse have too… although maybe not so patiently. Norris catches the fruit when it falls, and because he is a wise bear, he shares it and makes two new friends.
Pie is for sharing. It starts off round, and you can slice it into as many pieces as you want. What else can be shared? A ball, of course. A tree? What about time?
People achieve good things, big and small, every day. Celebrate them. Some people wish things were different. Listen to them. Everybody matters. Show them.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.