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Four Ways to Encourage Children to Share

Learning to share is important, but it can be challenging to convey this to children. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers four ways to encourage children to share.

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  1. As is so often the case, children grow to give what they have received. Valued and generously loved children find it much easier to be generous to others – in due time. Parents who behave generously (and talk about it) help their children develop the language of sharing early on. Phrases such as “Want to share my grapes?” or “I’d love it if I could share your orange, okay?” afford your child the chance to hear the vocabulary of sharing in the context of positive emotions like appreciation and generosity. This helps children begin to understand that generosity is a way of staying emotionally close to the people they want to stay close to.
  2. Avoid parent-enforced sharing whenever possible. The umpire is the least popular position in any sport or family. Acting as the referee supports the fantasy that, when a child wants something another child has, you can make things fair or right by forcing that other child to share. Instead, whenever you can, use the huge power of your affection to comfort the child, reassuring him you are staying right there and helping him wait for his turn.
  3. When you catch your child sharing, which they are more likely to do with younger, less intimidating peers, praise her for it, tell her how proud you are that she shared. This works far better than teaching or trying to make children share.
  4. Children in mixed age groups often find it easier to share than those who interact with their peers. Older children are usually less territorial and more likely to share, which can be a cue to younger children to share. These moments should be met with praise.