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“That’s mine!”  “I want that!” Or maybe no words at all… a snatch, a shove, a push or a scream…tears and tantrums! As parents we want our children to share and be considerate of others.

What does this look like?

When an argument ensues, we take the toy from our child and give it to the other child saying “Johnny, you need to share!”

What does this teach our child? 

It teaches them that “sharing” is giving away the toy I was playing with and this may mean there is no sign of its return to me… no wonder the result is often tears or screams of protest.

Instead of teaching our children to “share” we can teach them to “take turns” and to “wait”

At home, introduce the words “take turns” and “wait” with toys and books.  You don’t even need to involve another child, yet…

  1. Car play – Give each car a turn to drive along a circuit. “Blue car is going first while orange car waits for a turn.” Drive the blue car around the circuit. “Now orange car is having a turn and the blue car will wait”.  Drive the orange car around the circuit.
  2. Doll play (or other stuffed toys) – Give each doll a turn at having a cuddle, feed each doll in turn, give each doll a ride in a stroller.
  3. Books –“Johnny’s turn to choose a book.  Mummy is going to wait for a turn after we finish reading this book.” Read the book. “Mummy’s turn to choose a book.  Johnny can listen and when it is finished you can have a turn to choose the next book.” Read the book.

Counting out loud can give a clear beginning and end to a “turn”.

  1. On the swing – “Johnny will have 10 pushes and then it is Sally’s turn.”  Push Johnny and count.  “Great waiting Sally, now it is your turn. Sally will have 10 pushes and then it is Johnny’s turn.”  Push Sally and count.
  2. On the trampoline – “Sally will have 10 jumps and then it is Johnny’s turn”.  Sally jumps and counts. “Great waiting Johnny, now it is your turn.  Johnny will have 10 jumps and then it is Sally’s turn.”   Johnny jumps and counts.
  3. When cooking – “Johnny will stir the mixture 5 times and then it is Sally’s turn.” Johnny stirs and counts. “Great waiting Sally, now it is your turn.  Sally will stir the mixture 5 times and then it is Johnny’s turn”.  Sally stirs and counts.

These strategies can be applied to many different situations. Once you show them to your child, they will be able to use these words and the concepts of “turn taking” and “waiting”. Teaching your child these strategies can help your child to understand the expectations of “sharing”.  It teaches them how to “share” and negotiate with other children.  It takes time and repetition, but it does happen.

Do your kids have trouble “sharing”?  Have you shown them how to take turns and wait?

  • Great idea and great way to learn. Of course having children very close to each other they seem to learn to wait for a turn or to share things quite naturally with very little prompting. Thanks for the article. I am sure it will help many people.

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  • It is always better to show them practicle ways to share rather then just tell them. When they have other siblings it is something they learn from day one!

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  • My kids have always been great at taking turns and sharing. I didn’t consciously do anything, but I suppose I did advise them on having so many goes before it was someone else’s turn.

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  • I never had any trouble with my boys sharing things. There’s a few years between them so I believe that was how they learnt. I would watch them in case but there was never an issue. I’m glad to say they continued this with their friends as well.

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  • That’s a great idea – change our language to take turns as opposed to share…that makes the action a bit more tangible. I will give this a go. Thank you!

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  • I have an only child, so he was clearly not used to sharing. But it was something we taught him. We also taught him to put away his best toys or not to take it somewhere if it was going to become an issue. I like the idea above though… kids want everything now and maybe instead of encouraging sharing, we do encourage waiting.

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  • As an Early Childhood Educator we ask children to ask for things and if the child is not ready to share what they have then we ask them to please let the other child know when they are finished with it so they can have a turn too. It is just as important to teach a child to wait their turn as it is to encourage them to share.

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  • I think this is very true but kids will learn empathy and compassion in their own time and learn to share. I dont agree with giving the other kid the toy your kid was playing with just to share, I think they should wait until your kid is finished or play together.

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  • I think sharing is about teaching children compassion. An understanding how they feel with not being able to play or have the same toys as one child has.

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  • Sharing isn’t taking the toys from the original child and giving it to another, it is encouraging them to play together or telling the other child to wait. Before play dates at my house I remind my kids that they own the toy so they can play with it at anytime, so it would be nice to let their friends choose first and play as long as they like, but obviously playing together is more fun

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  • We do talk about this very often.

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  • I always try to instil these values in my kids.

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  • In the examples provided I totally agree that teaching taking turns and waiting is a much better approach then ‘sharing’ which means the child immediately must give up the toy or play equipment they’re on because another child wants it.
    I’m all for teaching sharing too – but it’s a very good point made in instances of a toy or on a swing etc & another child is there wanting it – it doesn’t always mean sharing equals the child playing immediately has to give it to the other child.
    Instances such as sharing food or buying something and a child decides to share with others is completely different.
    Teaching kids to share is important but also important is to acknowledge that if another child immediately wants what one child has, that doesn’t automatically mean the first child has to give it away and adults call it sharing.
    Both things are equally important in terms of raising kids and teaching and showing them how to interact and be kind and play with others.
    Recently at a playground I took my kids to – we arrived and one of mine loves the swings so ran straight to the one swing there. Another child was on the swing & straight away the parent stopped and said to the child hop off and let the little boy go as that’s sharing. Naturally this child burst into tears & screaming. I said not it’s ok, thank you but we’ll wait our turn and when it’s our turn we’ll have a go.
    This is as important as sharing.

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  • I’ll be keeping this in mind as baby number two is on its way.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  • Yes we speak rather of taking turns and waiting as well


    • But it doesn’t mean that sharing is a dirty word ! My son came home with taste testers he made with cooking at school. He didn’t want to keep them for himself but shared them with us all and even with some kids on the street. And a week ago he took out pocket money and went to domino’s with his friend. He bought pizza and garlic bread to share with everyone ! When the kids on the street already went inside he rang their doorbell to offer them pizza & garlic bread. It’s sharing and it can be beautiful

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