Your child’s friend wants to play with your child’s toy truck but your child is not willing to part with it. It leads to the usual cajoling, tantrums, and tears. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred and you are at your wits end as to how to deal with it.
At the very outset, it is important to understand the reason why your child is reluctant to share their toy.
- It is a part of the attachment process: Your child is growing aware of things that belong to them. It is a part of healthy emotional development to see these things as their possessions and be attached to them. The feeling of empathy comes to fore much later. Do not categorize their reluctance as selfishness.
- It gives them a feeling of security: It has taken years for your child to collect these precious possessions. They are not mere toys. They symbolize a feeling of security and familiarity. Give them some time and space to work out these feelings.
However a few simple measures in place will ensure your child becomes a willing participant in the process of sharing:
- Start off with small things: When you go to a local park ask them to wait their turn to use the swings. Let them know that anything play equipment they walk away from is free for others to use.
- Plan ahead with friends: When they have played dates, ask the friends to bring their toys. Your child will be intrigued by the new toy. Ask both of them to share their toys. This way both of them do not feel a sense of loss.
- Time the usage: Set a usage time for a toy that is shared with a sibling or a friend. This way your child will realize that no loss is permanent.
- Put away some special things: There will always be some toys, books, things they are very attached to. Put these away before their friends arrive. You can assure your child that as long as they are willing to share the rest, these stay protected.
- Give to charity: Make your child give away old clothes, toys, books to charity on a regular basis. This makes them feel empathy and a sense of right about giving away things.
- Praise their acts of sharing: Remember that it is difficult for them to develop this feeling. Any effort to share has to be lauded.
- Be consistent with the message: Sharing is a habit. Therefore do not ever tell your child that it is okay not to share with someone. There might be friends who do not share. Your child might not want to share their things with these friends. But do not relent. Selective sharing is not for this age.
- Display sharing in your actions: Children learn best when things are demonstrated to them. It could be simple things like offering them a share of what you eat, point out how you and your spouse share space in the room for your things etc.
Be patient in your efforts. It is not easy for your child either. It takes a certain level of maturity and experience for them to take another’s feelings into account. But when they do, you can be sure they will grow up to be kind and responsible adults.