Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“My son must be selfish. He won’t share his toys.” One mom whispered her confession to me following a young moms event at a local church.

When our kids don’t share, many of us feel like that mom. We are horrified to discover we have raised a selfish kid.

“How old is your boy?”

“2 and a half.”

“Your child isn’t selfish. He’s two.”

I went on to reassure her that developmentally kids need to learn ownership before they are able to understand the concept of sharing. Her son was acting just as any toddler would.

Have you seen the Toddler Rules of Ownership? (I LOVE this list!)

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
    3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  3. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
  4. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
  5. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
  6. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
  7. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  8. If you are playing with something and you put it down,
    it automatically becomes mine.
  9. If it’s broken, it’s yours.
  10. If it’s broken, but you are having fun playing with the pieces, it’s mine again.
  11. If there is ANY doubt, it’s mine.

Sharing is a developmental. Sharing doesn’t come naturally. It is a skill to be encouraged, modeled, directly taught, and practiced.

If kids are unable to share, whoever is the biggest or the most clever will always rule. Those children will eventually have trouble maintaining  friendships,difficulty working with others, and sharing credit.

Sharing teaches children how to cooperate, compromise, take turns, wait in line, negotiate, and manage disappointment. 

Sharing is a necessary people skill. We equate sharing with people who are generous. Conversely, we consider non-sharers selfish.

Here’s a little developmental guideline to help us train our kids to share:

  • Toddlers (1-2 years old )
    •  do not get the concept of sharing because they really own the world. When they say, “MINE” parents can help children identify what really is and isn’t their’s. “These are Remington’s blocks.” “These are Mommy’s shoes.” 
  • Preschoolers (3-4 years old)
    • understand turn taking:“You go first. I’ll go next. Then it’s Hudson’s turn.” 
    • are able to trade: “You play with this for 5 minutes. I’ll play with that for 5 minutes. Then we will switch toys for 5 minutes.” 
    • are beginning to get the concept of sharing but don’t fully embrace it.” Sharing needs to be practiced, talked about, and encouraged.
  • School-age kids (5 years old)
    • begin to understand the idea of fairness.
    • are able to share and take turns.“When Audrey comes over you will need to share your Lego Duplos with her.”

Remember we all have special things. So kids don’t need to share everything with a playmate or sibling. Let you child own somethings that are just his. This teaches responsibility for material items. It’s OK not to share everything. The special toys can be put away so they don’t have to be shared during a play date or kept in the closet until little sister takes her nap.

The progression from owning, to trading, to sharing
leads to the final soft skill of giving. 

Being able to give something to another is often part of the sharing training that is over looked. Train your child what giving looks like: Giving presents, spending time with someone  minus any expectation of receiving. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays are some natural times to talk about and train for generosity and gratefulness– two characteristics most parents would like to foster in their children.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6 

This is article number 8 in a series of blogs on Emotional Quotient and People Skills. Here are the previous posts:

20 Questions to Assess Your Child’s Emotional Quotient ( #1) 

How to Train Your Kids to Self Regulate  ( #2 ) 

Name It. Own It. How to Increase Your Child’s EQ (#3)

How to Have a Wise Kid (#4) 
10 Questions to Evaluate Emotional Safety in Your Home (#5)
How to Increase Your Child’s Resiliency (#6)
10 Questions to Assess Your Child’s People Skills (#7)
Here are two related posts:

I Was Raised to be Charming 
10 Ways to Raise a Selfish Child

© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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