Why is it so hard to share?

Jan 23, 2017

Sharing is a very difficult concept for children to learn!  Generosity and empathy- the foundation for sharing – are qualities that emerge over time; and considering all the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development that takes place in the early years, children do not have the ability to fully understand the idea of sharing until about 4 or 5 years of age.  This is a reminder to parents that developmentally appropriate expectations of our children are important!  A 2 year old may be reluctant to share the bouncy green ball if they cannot understand where the ball is going or when they will get it back!  

As children learn about how sharing works, parents can support this process up and lay a foundation for sharing with these tips:

  • Start off small – some basic rules and tenets of sharing can be taught early on.  Think of teaching a child to wait their turn and showing how taking turns works.  This can be done during play: build towers together, take turns putting puzzles together or turning the pages of a book.
  • Reinforce the idea of sharing – When you see your child share an item, comment on the behavior. He probably did not even realize he shared.  Praise the positive!
  • Use a timer – Let your child know that they can play with a certain toy for 10 minutes, and when the timer goes off, sister can play for 10 minutes.  This shows how to take turns and also helps the child to understand that giving up a certain toy is not permanent!
  • Play dates – Give your child the chance to practice sharing behaviors.  Encourage play dates and socialization so your little one can practice sharing and playing next to children who are also playing with toys!   
  • Have a “special toy” for your child– Empathize with your child that there might be something that they do not want to share.  This special toy can be put away in a special spot when friends are around or kept in the child’s room. 

Remember, parents must also lead by example (let your child see you in the act of sharing) and offer support for sharing is a difficult concept to master.  Until your child fully understands the idea of sharing, stay present when he is playing with others and help him navigate these tough moments. 



Tags: sharing
Category: Parenting Topics