Have you ever found yourself in a tricky sharing situation? Maybe you’re at the mall play area with your 3-year-old when another child across the way spots his special fire truck toy. He’s headed toward your little guy, and your dreading what’s coming. Should my preschooler have to share? Why is sharing important for a child anyway? Do you wonder if anyone else teaches their children to respect other children’s things? Then, when the two meet, something completely unexpected happens…
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Your thoughtful kiddo waves and says, “Hi… see my truck? He shows his new friend how “truck” can race and crash and be a hero. At one point, he lets the other child have a turn moving the ladder around on the back of the truck.
Whew. At that moment, in our pretend scenario, all the efforts you’ve put into training your child how to share, have paid off and it was all worth it!
So, just how do you get to that proud mommy moment in real life?
First, What Sharing IS for a 3-Year-Old?
- Sharing is valuing a person more than a “thing.” No matter how special the “thing” is. Yes, I know, that is a hard pill to swallow when your child has a toy so precious to him that you would cry more than anyone if something happened to it.
But truth, is truth. We’re instructed all over the place throughout scripture to put others above ourselves. Philippians 2:3 “count others more significant than yourselves.”
There is not a separate set of bible instructions for kids. The words we read to understand God’s truth are the same ones we read and apply for our kids.
- Sharing is taking turns. Thanks to a preschooler’s limited attention span, taking turns works well. It’s easy to play with something for a minute, then turn it over to someone else for a bit.
- Sharing is a way to show love. It’s a way to bring joy to another that he may not otherwise have. Your preschooler has a fun thing that makes him happy. Sharing is spreading that happiness around by allowing another to partake.
- Sharing is creating a habit. Train the right words and actions to handle a situation properly.
Second, What Sharing is NOT for a 3-Year-Old.
- Sharing is NOT your child handing over anything and everything she has immediately upon another child’s demand.
- Sharing is NOT your child fully understanding what it means to put others first, love our neighbor as ourselves, think outside themselves, and consider others’ feelings. Those are complex thought processes. It’s all about training good habits at this age. Understanding the true importance of sharing things comes later.
So, What Should You Do?
#1. Train your child to compensate for the lack of good manners in others. This is just the way life is today.
- When we drive on the road, we have to be very careful because of how awful others drive.
- And when we go to work, we have to pick up the slack of other less motivated co-workers.
- When we are shopping, we let others go ahead of us, lest we be run over.
#2. We must train our children the right words to say and actions to take.
#3. We must train our children to speak up for themselves.
#4. We have to start early. Start training good sharing habits so early that your child doesn’t know any other way. Are you holding your kids back? Find out here.
What Should You Not Do?
- #1. Don’t demonstrate entitlement by being rude about your child’s right to hold on to her things tight-fisted.
- #2. Don’t make him hand over what he’s playing with every time another child shows interest. It always surprises me how often I hear a mom say, “Billy, let Johnny have your toy.”
3 Tips for How to Teach a Child to Share.
- #1. Sharing is not suited for on-the-field training. Practice what fair sharing looks like at home, where you have a predictable environment.
- #2. Eliminate the “this-is-my-special-toy-that-I-love-so-much” drama by insisting that it stay in the car. If a thing is just too special for anyone else ever to touch, the best way to stop a problematic situation is to prevent one.
- #3. Be your child’s hero. Speak up for her when necessary. Say, “No, she is not allowed to share that. I am going to hold on to it for now” if she needs you to swoop in.
Finally, Why Is Sharing Important For A Child?
Our lives aren’t about us. True joy is not found in selfishness but in service. Selfishness doesn’t have to be taught. It’s innate in all humans. You’re naturally teaching your child self-care by the way you take care of her.
However, by understanding what sharing is, what it is not, what you should be doing, what you should not, and making it as easy as possible for your little person, you’ll teach her to strike a good balance.
Your child should be different. Oddly generous (Proverbs 19:6), thoughtful, and considerate (Titus 3:2.) The child other moms watch in amazement as she hands over her toy for the sake of making a new friend. It has to be trained and it takes practice, but it’s a great goal to work towards!