When is it okay to say “no” to sharing and when is it necessary to share? I’m diving deep into this concept as I help my toddler learn.
My toddler is starting to interact more with children his age and with that he is beginning to learn concepts like sharing, taking turns, or not getting what you want.
It is really hard to explain to a 2 year old why they can’t have a specific toy they see in another baby’s hands. It’s even harder to reason with them when they become overwhelmed with emotions. But as a parent, the trickier situation comes when another child wants a toy your child is playing with and is now demanding to have it.
You’re stuck in a Catch-22, you want to teach your child to share, but you also want your child to enjoy the toy they just started playing with and make the other child wait their turn. Nowadays it’s harder to “parent” a child that’s not your own without making their parents upset — so you do your best to make it work — but oftentimes it’s your child who gets the bad end of that deal as you strive to make yourself look good.
I’ve been working on sharing at home by modeling sharing behaviors and asking for a turn. Most often my toddler will say no to sharing a toy but yes to finding me something else to play with. To me, this is a great step in the right direction, but then I’ve starting noticing that when we are with other children he will immediately back off from what he was playing with to let the screaming/crying child have the toy or he will reluctantly trade with them for a toy he didn’t want and be sad with the new toy he has. Most of the time he will make due of the situation and snap back into play mode but there are a few times I will get tears.
I’m not sure how to handle these situations from a non-confrontational stand point. I’ve grown up to become a people pleaser and a pushover due to being around friends with the “I want it, give it to me now” mindset and when they didn’t get their way they would spend the rest of the day pouting and not playing. With that feeling of anxiety, I managed to always give up what I wanted to do and let others decide.
I have now started to take back my control in making my own choices.
Back to my toddler —
I know a lot of mommy blogs and podcasts say that it’s okay to say “no” to sharing and I agree with that to an extent. We should teach our kids to share, but it’s also okay to teach them to wait their turns. In doing so, it also allows your child to know that it’s okay to take five more minutes before handing the toy over.
Here are some tips we can help encourage our children to share without invalidating their feelings and wants.
For toddlers around the age of two years old, it’s is unrealistic to expect them to be able to share right away. Expect tantrums and meltdowns over a lost toy. Validate their feelings and do your best to explain the situation. “It’s hard to wait your turn. Let’s find something we can do while we wait… Oh look, they’re letting us have our turn again! Thank you friend!”
For preschoolers around the age of three years old, they are beginning to understand the concepts of taking turns and sharing. They still might not want to “give up” what they are playing with but they have a better understanding that “If I wait my turn, I’ll get to play with it again.”
By school age, children should know and understand the fairness behind sharing, taking turns, and being patient. Be sure they understand the rules of a game and acknowledge/reassure that they will be able to have their turn soon.
9 Helpful Ways to Encourage Sharing:
- Model the sharing and taking turns behavior. By playing with your toddler or child and showing them what it’s like to take turns or share, it helps them practice with you before jumping into a situation with same aged children.
- Point out examples of sharing. Do you and your partner share a snack? You can point out “Daddy is sharing with me! How nice is that!?” “Mama, is sharing her strawberries with you!” “Grandma is sharing her cookie with you!” By pointing out positive examples of sharing, it will encourage them to want to share and be a part of the positive experience as well. NOTE: This also can be a good way to practice saying “no” to sharing as well, “No thank you, I want don’t want to share,” and how to handle that rejection.
- Validate their feelings. It is hard to wait. It’s hard to share something you are playing with right now. If they really don’t want to share, ask the child/toddler/parent if there is something else they other child can do for a few more minutes. This is when I feel it’s okay to teach your child to say “no” if they don’t want to share, but follow up with “you can play with it for two more minutes and then let your friend have their turn!” Also reassuring that they will have it back soon and it’s not gone forever, may help ease their fears that the toy is no longer theirs.
- Using a timer. This is a good tool to use alongside the “you can play with for X amount of time” rule. A visual timer or a timer on your phone can be a great tool to allow each child to have their turn and know how long their turns are. Depending on the age of the child and their current mood, it may or may not work. But using a timer on other parts of their day can also help ease the transition to using a timer during playdates and allowing them the space to be able to continue to play with the wanted toy and then being in control of giving it away.
- Don’t force to share. It’s hard to know when you should step in or hold back from being a referee during a playdate. If your toddler or preschooler is still having trouble with sharing a toy, this is when you should step in and redirect to a different activity and take the coveted toy out of reach of the children for a few minutes. Let them reset and their emotions and redirect their attentions to another activity, snack, or toy. When everything is calm, quietly introduce the toy back into play.
- Help them to find a solution. If they’re old enough for simple logic and reasoning, giving them the option to find a solution on what to do about a wanted toy can help bring them together to either play or have them take turns in a fun, exciting way.
- Protect those special toys. Before a playdate starts, ask your child if they’d like to put away any toys they don’t want to share with a friend that day. Sometimes there is at least one or two toys they are anxious about sharing and that helps alleviate any stress or unwanted tantrums over a playdate grabbing their special toy.
- Give praise. When you see your toddler or child involved in a sharing situation or if a toddler/child shared with your kid, make sure you point it out and give praise. “Thank you so much for sharing your toys with us today!” “I see that you shared your ball with your friend, that was so nice!” “I’m so happy to see you both playing together!” Not only does it help reinforce the positive notion behind sharing, but it also will let them know that what they are doing is what my friend would say “a happy choice”.
- Be their voice. This tip is something I’m bringing to the table. After much thought and talking with some of my mom friends, I’ve realized that sometimes you need to be your child’s advocate. If you know they are not happy with the trade that someone is offering, suggest to them to ask for another option. Maybe offer that they play for a couple more minutes. Or ask for them to look for a better option themselves before handing over the toy for a trade. Allow your toddler/preschooler to be a part of making that sharing decision instead of letting them blindly follow along.
Hopefully these tips will help you to encourage your toddler with sharing and taking turns!