Sharing is caring. Every well-meaning parent’s wish is to have cooperative, well mannered children playing together, sharing their toys with friends with minimal fuss…
However, in the real world, learning to share is a process; it takes time depending on the developmental stages of the child as well as the level of connections, bonding and guidance from parents and carers.
For children under the age of 3, the brain is not ready for the "sharing" concept; they do not understand or see things from the other party's view point or see the other person as a separate entity. They usually play with themselves or play alongside other children – parallel play. The do not see the other as a separate entity, thus they can't understand or see from the other party's view point – i.e. empathy.
In order for children to share, they need to harness the value of empathy, i.e. able to see from the other person's view point, i.e. how does the other person feel?
How do children learn about empathy?
Children above 2 will start to learn to empathise. They learn through modeling, and when the child feels safe and valued. Children who are more connected to their primary carers are more inclined to share, for several reasons:
- They feel more secure, and have better self-image of themselves, thus need less material goods /possessions to validate his or her self-worth, and so are more likely to share and give.
- Children who receive more tend to give and share more – modeling through the example of parents and carers.
Don't force your child to share
Young children are attached to his or her own possessions, just like they are attached to their parents and primary carers.
I remembered when I was young, I had a toy dog which I carried everywhere I went for a long time. It was the most important possession I had in the world, so naturally I was very protective of it. The thought of loosing or sharing was unthinkable at that time.
It is just like we won't share our precious and valuable worldly goods with all our friends, so we have to respect that our children will do the same. It is natural to expect your children or child to be generous with some toys and be attached to others.
As your child maneuvers from the attachment (primary carer and possession) stage to a more sharing stage / empathetical stage, and through proper guidance and repetition, they will gradually become a more generous and learn to see the fun of sharing and playing together.
Provide an environment to allow your child / children to learn about sharing, being empathetic, kind and loving. Be the example you want your children to be… but most of all, have fun with your children, because to a child, learning is play!