What I came to realise, and a great place to start, is to ask ourselves WHY? – WHY do I WANT my children to share? We want our children to learn to share because it feels good, and they’re learning to solve conflicts.
Practice what it means to share.
Young children ‘see’ the world very differently to you. They honestly think, “If I give my toy to my sibling, then that means it’s not mine anymore.” -No wonder they can put up such a fight. That means their favourite train track isn’t theirs’ anymore.
When you understand how your child thinks you can begin to practice turn-taking, so your child begins to understand that just because some else is playing with their toy, it still belongs to them. Turn-taking sets her mind at rest and encourages her to share willingly.
Acknowledge when your child is sharing.
Do you feel like you’re frequently badgering your child to share? It’s an easy habit to fall into. After all, we want our child to share. However, we get stuck focusing on what’s not going right.
My daughter used to find it hard to share. I often had to separate screaming children and confiscate toys. The screaming would prevail, and however many times I told her it wasn’t kind to grab toys, and how would she feel if someone grabbed the toy from her… nothing changed.
Then I started to point out to her and articulate how she shared her cookie, how she shared her bubbles in the bath, how she shared storytime with her brother.
Children learn by succeeding, not by being told off or by endless correction. By drawing attention to the little moments when they do share you are showing them that they are sharers.
Validate the wants of each child.
A child who feels understood and acknowledged doesn’t have to act out to prove to you just how much they want something; they know you know.
Here’s a script of how Success Training could look using the Language of Listening® 3-step coaching model I use and teach.
For more examples and how to’s check out my downloadables for hundreds and hundreds of examples of what to say to transform tricky situation into a positive.
SAY WHAT YOU SEE® (SWYS) to child 1 who tried to grab: “You really want the bear, it feels hard to wait.” You can step in calmly between the children.
Child 1: “Yes!”
SWYS to child 2: “You want to keep it! You like that bear; you want to play with it!”
CAN DO to child 1: “Looks like he hasn’t finished playing with it. You can ask him when he’s finished playing with the bear and then you can have a turn. Must be something you CAN DO while you wait.”
Here, you’re focusing your child’s attention on what she can do and helping her find solutions.
Once child 2 finishes playing with the toy and shares it with the waiting child, point out their successes:
STRENGTH to child 1: “You waited! And now you’re playing with the bear.”
STRENGTH to child 2: “You shared the bear.”
Don’t punish for not sharing – that includes giving consequences.
This goes back to why you want your child to share. Punishing and giving consequences teaches our children to be fearful of what might happen if they don’t share. They are focused on themselves and what might happen TO THEM, the exact opposite of where we want their focus -on others.
Dragging your child kicking and screaming to their room or try to teach them a lesson by not sharing with them, is not really modelling empathy and the joys of sharing. It’s also more likely to fuel resentment between siblings, driving even more sibling battles.
Yes, they might hand over a toy because they fear being sent to their room, sitting on the naughty step or missing out on something, but that’s not the act of sharing. We want our children to base their decisions on all the good things that will happen when they share.
In short, you want your child to know the joy of sharing, not how to avoid punishment.
Teach your children to find their own solutions.
Have ‘no share’ toys for each child.
As toddlers, the twin girls I used to look after one day a week loved nothing better than swinging for hours at the playground. When another child wanted a turn, here’s how I avoided the problem of trying to get a toddler out of a swing.
Using my Language of Listening® training I handed the solution over to the girls, and their solution surprised me.
SAY WHAT YOU SEE® (SWYS): “Girls, you’re both swinging, and another girl wants a turn.”
CAN DO: “Three girls and two swings. There must be something you CAN DO!”
And they looked at each other, both asked to be let down and proceeded to push their doll in one of the swings together while the other little girl used the other swing—a solution I would never have thought of.
I wrapped up with a STRENGTH: “You’re problem-solvers. You found a way to use the swing and share with the other little girl.”
Have ‘no share’ toys for each child.
How can you set up playtime, so each child feels secure that their most precious toys are not for sharing? How can you arrange your space or playtime to make sure your toddler doesn’t ruin their sibling’s Lego project?
A client of mine was dealing with daily battles between their 10-year-old and 6-year-old. She would storm in and tell off the older boy for “not knowing better.” Things would escalate and end up with the older boy retreating to his room in a huff.
When she changed her approach to the Language of Listening® framework, she started to ‘see’ things from her older son’s view. He was fed up with his younger sibling ruining his space.
Letting your children know that you respect their space for individual play and that you will support them with this allows your child the freedom to share willingly when needed.
Let your child be upset.
Rest in the knowledge that your child is going to be upset sometimes. They are going to cry and fuss and stamp their feet about sharing. AND that is OK. And it’s completely normal.
It’s with your loving guidance while holding your boundaries about sharing that they learn to handle their frustrations and learn the necessary skills to handle their own sibling conflicts.
With small shifts in how you teach your child to share, they will learn the skills they need to control their own behaviour – so you don’t have to.
Want examples of the Language of Listening3-part coaching model? My brand-new downloadable phrase booklets have hundreds of examples so you are never left wondering what to say in challenging situations. Check them out here.