Definition of sharing – giving, splitting, dividing. Hmm. Doesn’t sound so appealing. What child wants to give, split or divide their prized possessions with some other kid who didn’t work as hard as she did to get them? Share the love, share the responsibility, share the blame. Adults struggle with sharing. How can we expect kids to get the concept?
But, sharing is needed to be successful in just about any situation. Sharing is an abstract concept to a toddler. Yet, this is the stage of life when they are being asked to share mommy or their toys. They don’t get that the toy won’t disappear forever. Or, that Daddy can love baby as well as number 1 son (or daughter). We all want to retain some control over our environments; why should kids be any different?
Sharing the love
Jealousy, the green-eyed monster, can cause more than hurt feelings. Toddlers can physically injure siblings if they perceive a threat.
• Stress the family bond. Heap love on the toddler so they feel secure about their place in the family.
• Talk and listen to them – both verbally as well as non-verbal behavior. If they’re being aggressive to another child, try to identify what’s causing the behavior
• Provide lots of one-on-one time; special Mommy/child time
• Explain. Toddlers are still learning but will begin to understand and feel less threatened if they know that their turn is next
• Prepare children for the arrival of a sibling or guest. Explain (multiple times if necessary) the who, what, why, etc. If possible, try role-playing a situation beforehand so kids can see that it’s not threatening to them
Many of the same principles apply in this situation. But, also:
• Have age-appropriate toys that a toddler can offer to baby as a distraction
• Explain the benefits of sharing and that it is expected. Ensure they understand that failure to share will result in a consequence
• Ask the toddler which toys he’d like to share with someone else. When handled properly, this helps a child retain a sense of control
• If appropriate – make it a “what’s in it for me” proposition. Offer a reward if they make a good faith effort to share – additional time at the playground or playing before bedtime.
• Support them when another child is not sharing or takes toys from your child. Explain why that is not good behavior towards friends, praise him for his handling of the situation (if warranted), and offer them the option of moving to another toy or play area
Sharing the blame/responsibility
All of these are hard, depending on the age, but this may be the trickiest. We’re talking empathy and remorse. If a child understands consequences (time out), remorse is not so far away. They may not feel sorry for what they did yet, but they’re likely sorry for the consequence they know is coming. If you make it a safe place for a child to tell the truth, even when they’ve done something wrong, they’re more likely to confess. And, please, please try to avoid telling kids that they’re “bad”. That sends a long-lasting negative message. Tell them that their behavior is unacceptable but they are good. Explain that they have choices and be consistent in the delivering the consequences.
Even toddlers can be surprisingly compassionate. When his baby brother seems distressed, my 2.5 year-old grandson breaks out into a rousing rendition of “The Wheels On The Bus”. I don’t know what he’s thinking but I like his style.