Learning to Share,Or Not?
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
We all agree that sharing is important. People like people who share and have disdain for those who are selfish. Sharing is healthy as it makes us feel good when we allow someone else to enjoy something that we have. And, of course, sharing is kind and helps us to have empathy for others. It helps us to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us and, as John Donne put it, “no man is an island.” If we’ve shared with others, then they are more likely to share.
I recently laughed reading “Dog Property Laws” (© Pooch Lover Stuff) which says in part:
1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my mouth, it’s mine.
3. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
4. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours.
That reminded me of my beloved tri-color cocker spaniel, Scooter, who is deceased. Once at his birthday party (Yes, my dogs have them! Well, they have birthdays, don’t they?!), I had set him on a picnic table with a new toy and Frosty Paws frozen treats (one for each dog). I had put him up there to take a photo and the other dogs were circling the table awaiting their Frosty Paws. Scooter circled the table growling loudly at any dog that dared get near any of HIS things on the table. He was normally a gentle, very sweet dog… but he wasn’t willing to share!
Doesn’t that remind you of the way that most toddlers and young children play? So how do you teach children to share? First, be a role model of sharing and make a point of stating what you’re doing and why. Also, read books and tell stories about sharing. When young children are playing with toys, play the “switch off” game which means that the child exchanges a toy with someone else and tell them to look for the cool things about the new toy. When siblings won’t share, then perhaps assign one week with something new for one and the next week the other child gets it. If this doesn’t work, then tell them they are not responsible enough to take turns and take the object away for a week and then try again. Discuss giving and charity with older children and get them involved in helping others.
And, with siblings, protect the interests if one child takes advantage of the other. If you don’t, then sharing will not be a character trait of your children. For example, in my counseling practice, I have a 19 year-old client who is stressed by her 15 year-old sister who goes into her room and just takes what she wants. The big sister has politely asked her to stop and the 15 year-old just doesn’t care as there have been no consequences to this selfish behavior. I’ve asked the mother to discipline to younger daughter as well as provide a lock on the older girl’s bedroom.
In summary, take active steps to help your children learn to share.
Copyright © 2012, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.