At 5 and 6, children are keenly aware of justice. They know sharing is the right thing to do, even if it is difficult. But they feel everyone should share with them since they are making the same effort to share.
Our children, however, are not living in a perfect world. In the real world, your child will encounter situations when someone refuses to share with them or they just cannot get themselves to share either.
What lessons about sharing do we teach our kids?
- Sharing does not always mean caring. Thanks to wonderful programs for kids that teach children the value of sharing, our kids know the concept of sharing means caring. But they take it so literally that when they encounter a situation when someone does not share with them, they instantly equate that to lack of caring. For example, your child goes to a friend’s house and wants to use their Xbox. However, the host’s parents have a rule that Xbox is not for friends and can only be used by the family as it is an expensive piece of equipment. Does this mean that friend does not care for your child? No. But that is not what your child will understand.
- You do not have to share always either. There are some children who feel so pressured by the dictum that ‘sharing is caring’ that they do not discriminate. Is your child obliged to share with those who bully or are mean to him/her? Is your child obliged to share at the cost of their own comfort? What if you packed two biscuits for a snack and two children ask your child for a biscuit each? Should your child give them both away?
- Share to express caring. The above points might appear to indicate that sharing is not an important value, but it is. Sharing is a very important life skill. To share time, attention and even materials help us bond and develop relationships. So teach your child to share by modelling behaviours and advising them to recognize the difference between situations when they need not share and situations when they should. For example, if your child is not hungry, then divide one of the biscuits into two for your hungry friends. Or share with a child who is not nice to you only if you have extra.
- Walk away from situations when the friend is not sharing. Teach your child that you cannot force someone to share. If another child refuses to share then walk away. Use words to express unhappiness, like “It is not fair that you are not sharing. I am not playing anymore.”
- Tell an adult if a classmate or friend does it consistently. If during a class assignment that includes sharing resources, a classmate has trouble sharing, your child can ask a teacher for help. Similarly, your child can ask a parent for help if his/her friend does not allow your child to do anything without a fuss.