“How can I teach my children how to share? They fight tooth and nail over everything!”
This is a wonderful question that so many parents can relate to. Let’s look into how to begin teaching genuine sharing amongst siblings and gradually boost those connections and enjoyable exchanges.
In order for someone to be generous with their belongings, there needs to be a genuine sense of ownership.
So often we forget the relevance of ownership before generosity. I encourage families to allow their child or children to experience ownership by having their own toy box, their own play room or their own bookshelf. Choose whatever is reasonable within your family, so each child has the opportunity to experience responsibility and ownership with their own items i.e toys, clothes or books.
By dedicating a specific area or toy box for your child and allowing them to decorate it and label it as their own, you’ll find that feelings of ownership will come naturally.
Once you’ve taken the time to create these ‘ownership boxes’ (or ownership shelves), then we can start to introduce a fun family activity. This will teach your child how to share without coercing or coaxing. Remember – a child’s brain will naturally resist any form of dominance like, “Share with your brother or there will be no TV!”
Introducing the Sharing Blanket
You can start by using a beach towel, small blanket or sheet. Basically anything that will give your family a designated area to sit on and share – just like a picnic.
Announce to your children that you will be playing a new game. It’s called “The Sharing Blanket” or whatever catchy nickname you can think of!
1. Choose a significant or ‘special’ item
Each member of the family needs to bring an item from their ownership box to the blanket. If you have only recently introduced ownership boxes, then it’s very possible that your child might resist bringing any special toys at first. That’s okay! They can simply watch you play this with your partner or spouse, the other kids, grandparents, whoever is around – or perhaps they might like to join in with a toy that belongs to everybody. It doesn’t have to be a ‘special toy’ while they’re still learning the rules of the game.
When everyone brings something that is significant and special to the blanket, it’s important that this is genuine. I know that I would bring a coffee cup to the blanket, my husband would probably bring a tool from his garage. This is most effective when adults initiate and model how to play!
2. Take turns playing with each item
Once everyone has brought their significant toy to the blanket, sit down together and set a timer for 2 to 5 minutes. You can then take turns passing around the toys, so that everyone gets a chance to play or experience the different objects.
Remember – this is only as exciting and engaging as you make it. It’s important that you model the behaviour that you would want from your children. Smiles and high-fives go a long way.
3. Make it a regular thing
Schedule time to play this new sharing game 2 to 3 times every week. Within a couple of weeks, your children will start initiating sharing on their own! This is because you have taken the time to model and teach sharing while everyone is calm. By introducing genuine ownership, your children don’t feel the risk of missing out on anything and you’ve practiced flexibility by incorporating time contingencies with your younger children.
Whilst this may seem like an ongoing commitment, you are guiding your children on how to genuinely share with each other. This is also great way to teach replacement skills to arguing, bickering and fighting amongst each other.
I have taught countless families how to introduce this activity and each time they have come back to me in less than a week, sharing their success story. Their children are suddenly playing beautifully and getting the sharing blanket out on their own – without the parents initiation.
Child-centred activities work wonders when we remember to keep it fun and light – children love learning!
Stephanie Wicker is a child behaviour expert, parenting educator and counsellor who has successfully guided families through early childhood for over 15 years.
Join us in the Kiindred Expert Series for the Toddler Behaviour Course and get access to her practical tips and evidence-based solutions, that will ensure your child grows to be emotionally strong, independent and resilient – setting them up for success in the future.
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