I’m not convinced that forcing kids to share actually promotes sharing. I’d like to think that my kids share when they are inspired to share. Sounds lofty but I really do believe this. If I demand that my kids share when they don’t feel like it, they’d only be doing it to get out of being punished. I’m not going to punish them for not sharing. I do also think that kids want to share and that our society actually promotes not sharing. So, they aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re just following suit.

If you really think about it, sharing doesn’t make sense. One kid watches another kid play with a cool toy and then they reverse roles? Adults don’t even do this. If there’s a shared computer, for instance, adults get testy if one person is taking longer than they said they would. Here’s a cool story from anthropologist Joseph Sheppherd on sharing.

There are some ways that I try to inspire sharing in our home.

  1. I’ll ask my kids to trade for the toy they want. They have to go pick out a cool toy to give in exchange for the toy they want. This is proved pretty successful.
  2. I’ll say something like, “When you’re ready to share your toy, snack, etc, go ahead.” It puts the kid in charge of deciding when they are going to share, refocusing their energy on another part of the sharing act. After a couple of minutes, if my child isn’t ready to share yet, I’ll say, “Do you want me to give them (the other child) some of your snack/toy/etc, or do you want to do it?”
  3. Have enough toys for your kids and their friends to share. Ok. This isn’t always realistic, but at least having two cars, or more than one tub of play-doh can really make them all feel a part of the same game.
  4. Model sharing with other adults but don’t make a big deal out of it. If you do, be sure that you’re kids will want you to have a party every time they are nice to another kid- and that’s just not sustainable.

Overall, be patient. Assume your kid wants to share and try to let go of your anxiety about the act of sharing. It really is okay if kids don’t share all the time.