Helping an Only Child Learn to Share

A parent’s concern with cultivating a child’s social skills for living in community, and particularly for learning to share, is a common one, even for a parent of multiple children. It seems that one of the first words out of the mouth of many children is “mine” or “me”. Sharing is a skill that must be modeled, encouraged and taught. It is important to recognize that sharing is a part of working or playing together. Identify occasions where you share leisure, recreation and work activities together, and create intentional opportunities to practice that sharing in your home.

A family project, craft, or ritual may provide a favorable circumstance for working together. Our family recently began having “make your own pizza night”; and as we stand around the kitchen passing toppings around, the practice of sharing becomes natural. Another family I know bakes bread, and the child participates with the parents in the baking and eating.

Role-play sharing as a way to help you learn the possible reasons for your child’s reluctance to share and help your child practice sharing.

Try to check out the rules about sharing at childcare, school, camp, and even at other children’s homes. If others are not sharing, politely ask why; and then explain it to your child. Maybe your child is just repeating a behavior being practiced by playmates in one of the child’s learning environments.

Be careful not to force your child to share those very special items. Have a box ready to keep those out of sight when others come to visit. Personally take the box, and put it in a safe place away from everyone, including your child. If your child is too young to understand, then remove those special things without being seen. You can always bring the items out after the friend has gone home.
Don’t make a big deal out of the social situation. Change the activities and interests, and keep things moving. Remember to catch your child in the act of displaying acceptable behavior, and give plenty of hugs and praise when sharing occurs.

Organized playdates can be helpful times to try out some of these suggestions. Stay close by, and intervene as often as necessary to teach the life skill of sharing. Learning to share doesn’t come naturally; it takes time and patience to develop.