- What is the importance of sharing?
- Why do children not want to share?
- How can I teach my child to share?
As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to have a happy, fulfilled life. To get there, though, it’s important that your child has good emotional intelligence and understands how to have healthy relationships with others. The ability to share is a huge part of that--but even the kindest and most generous kids have a hard time taking turns sometimes. If you’re worried about your child not sharing, there are ways to help! We’re here to tell you how.
What is the importance of sharing? 🤝
You’ve likely encountered some selfish adults in your own life and likely weren’t too keen on spending much time with them! Humans naturally want to build relationships with those who make them feel supported, encouraged, and welcome. Sharing is essential to this, and why it’s so important that children learn this skill from an early age. In child development sharing is an important piece of the puzzle. When a child understands the importance of sharing, they’ll be better able to develop happy relationships, learn empathy, and how to communicate, all things that truly make life joyful. ❤️
Sharing is ultimately an important social skill and something that will always be expected of your child, whether they are sharing toys on the playground, or making compromises in a committed relationship as an adult. You may find, though, that your young child doesn’t want to share, and may find it difficult to get them to take turns or compromises. Why is that?
Why do children not want to share?
It’s part of human nature to want things for yourself. Whether that’s an extra scoop of ice cream or another ten minutes on the swings, your child’s desire to have things for themself despite how it may affect others is completely normal. After all, wouldn’t you like to have everything you want at all times? It’s actually a good thing for your child to feel deserving of things they want, as it’s a sign of healthy self-esteem. A child’s unwillingness to share is just their natural egotism, and has been a part of human nature since humans first walked the earth.
Additionally, the family structure can also influence children’s views towards sharing. Children often struggle with sharing with siblings as they need to assert their own unique role in the family. Your child needs to feel as if they are loved just as much as their sibling is, and their sister getting to play with a toy longer than they do may make them feel as if they aren’t as important to mum and dad. Fairness is incredibly important to children, as it is how they perceive their own importance in their family.
Conversely, children without siblings may struggle with sharing for very different reasons. They are likely used to getting most things they want, simply because they are the target of all their parents’ love, affection, and money. Therefore, it can be challenging for an only child to share, as it’s more comfortable for them to get what they want. That doesn’t mean, though, that your only child is doomed to a life of selfishness. Rather, they will learn about sharing with peers in the classroom or other social settings, rather than the home--and you can still teach them the importance of sharing with adult family members.
You, of course, want to encourage your child to share and constantly show kindness and generosity. However, it’s also important that your child truly does understand that their wishes and desires are just as important as anyone else’s.
Many children can fall into the trap of constantly giving up things they want for others, perhaps to be liked by their peers or to avoid conflict. You want your child to learn how to stand up for themself and to vocalise their own wants and needs, too. Make sure you tell your child that what they want is important, and asking for what they want doesn’t automatically make them selfish.
How can I teach my child to share?
Toddlers and preschoolers
There are many ways to teach sharing for kids! As your child leaves babyhood and develops language skills, it is the most influential and impactful time for your child to learn the importance of sharing. The sharing skills they learn now will impact them for the rest of their lives. There are many great sharing and turn-taking activities for toddlers:
- Give them a handful of crackers and ask them to share with you.
- Have your child draw a picture with someone else--they pass the crayon back and forth adding something to the paper until they have finished.
- Sit in a circle with your family and play some music. Roll a ball around on the floor to each other. When the music stops, whoever has the ball shares something about their day!
- Read a book together, and take turns reading the pages.
- Have them choose a special toy to share with a friend when having a playdate.
- Set a timer when necessary so each child has an equal turn.
- Lead by example! Offer a bite of your food to your partner at family dinner, or let them choose the show you watch.
You may get frustrated and angry when your child doesn’t share. However, it’s important to remember that toddlers and preschoolers are just learning how to understand and communicate their emotions. Don’t punish your child for getting upset when they have to share their favorite toy, or when they grab one out of their sibling’s hand.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to teach your child how to navigate those difficult feelings, and express them in a healthy and effective way. We know it’s not always easy, but have patience with your child.
Primary school-age children
Once children are in the early years of primary school, or ages 5 and 6, they better understand sharing. However, it is easier for children this age to share with one other child, rather than a large group. Many children this age have one best friend they like to do things with. In this close relationship, a child can learn skills like cooperating and sharing. A best friend is often a child’s first close relationship outside the family or home, and it’s a great way for them to learn the importance of compromises and working together. These are relationship skills that will benefit them their whole life.
Additionally, studies have shown that children understand the importance of sharing by age 7 or 8. At this age, they understand the consequences they’ll face if they don’t share, such as not getting invited to play games. By this age, too, they’ve been in school full-time for quite a few years, so they are used to interacting with peers without the guidance and observance of mum and dad. Because of these outside influences, it’s important to further reinforce the importance of sharing at home.
Secondary school-age children
Once your child reaches secondary school, they are likely much more independent from you. They have their own social life (maybe even busier than yours!) and might be less inclined to share things with you. And as you probably recall from your own secondary school days, this is when drama, cliques, and bullying may begin.
It’s more important than ever that your child understands the importance of generosity, but also standing up for themselves. While playground days may be over, the necessity of sharing is still prevalent. Entering adolescence presents new social and relational challenges.
While your child may think they can navigate it all on their own, they still need your help! Keep an open dialogue with your child. If you sense they are feeling excluded--or they are the one doing the excluding--ask them about it. Now that your child has their own life separate from yours, it’s more essential than ever that you ask them about their emotions. Though your kid may like to think they know everything, they still need your guidance.
Sixth-form and beyond
By the time they are in their late teens, your child likely has formed some intense intimate relationships, whether simply very close friends or perhaps even their first big romantic love. These first tastes of adult relationships can be very impactful for your child and can influence the rest of their adult lives, so don’t underestimate their weight.
As you likely know yourself, compromise is one of the most integral parts of a long-lasting relationship. Talk to your teen about this, and ask them about compromising in their own relationships. Share your own experiences, and how you first-hand have learned how important compromising is in relationships. Your kid may not be fighting over the swingset anymore, but those preschool-age lessons still remain.
Sharing is a necessary skill at all stages of life. From your child’s first toddler days through their entire adult life, the ability to share is integral to building happy, healthy, and long-lasting relationships. However, remember that if your child doesn’t seem keen to share, it is normal--your child isn’t doomed to be selfish or a bully! It’s human nature to want the things you desire all to yourself, and it’s your responsibility as a parent to teach your child why sharing and compromise are the right things to do.
Ultimately, like so many life skills, sharing is something your child will learn through example and experience. Create a home environment where sharing is prioritised, expected, and a normal part of how your family interacts. When your child sees that sharing and cooperation lead to better relationships and a more peaceful family, they’ll innately understand that it’s something they should do. Sharing is essential for living a happy life, and it’s something your child will absolutely learn to do--even if they need a bit of help along the way.