Heading off to preschool helps kids in numerous ways — the benefits of pre kindergarten education have been extensively documented — but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for kids right away. And as many parents and early education specialists know, one of the biggest struggles preschoolers go through is learning to share. How can you help your child if he or she is having a tough time with sharing, either at home or at school? Here are the five most important things to do:
- Don’t Shame Possessiveness
As you approach the issue of sharing, it’s important you remember that your child is not a bad person, and shouldn’t be shamed as being “greedy” or “selfish” for not wanting to share with other children. Children learning independence and possessiveness is actually an important developmental step, not a sign of poor character. Your goal should simply be to balance out that healthy sense of self with the new social skill of sharing.
- Model Generosity Yourself
Be sure to demonstrate sharing in your own life, both when you’re directly interacting with your child and when you think he or she isn’t consciously paying attention. Put some extra work into how you negotiate with your spouse or other childrearing partners to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement so that a child can start to see that sharing isn’t necessarily equivalent to just giving up everything you want — even if the matter at hand is simply which TV show to watch or who should get the last dinner roll.
- Point Out and Praise Sharing
When your child or other people around you share, point it out to your child. You don’t need to make a big fuss; a simple positive comment such as “Wow, thanks for sharing that blanket with me while we were reading tonight!” is enough.
- Share in Different Ways
Teach your child that sharing has a broader definition than letting someone else play with your toys. Time sharing, object sharing, attention sharing and compromise all go hand in hand.
- Keep Special Toys at Home
Don’t try to push your child too far too fast. You might think that taking a special blanket, toy or doll to school will help comfort your preschooler, but the prospect of sharing such a personal item may be too much for him or her to handle. It’s completely normal and healthy for people to have some items they don’t want to share — while you might let a friend borrow some jewelry, you might not let her borrow your grandmother’s ring, for example — so you shouldn’t enforce sharing of absolutely everything.
What have you tried in your efforts to teach good sharing habits? Join the discussion in the comments.