Helping children share

Is your child having trouble sharing?
I once read a really interesting article by Steven Covey who was a father of 9 and wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - great book, don’t be put off by the title. Anyway, he said it was his daughter’s 3rd birthday and they were having a party at home. She was acting like a complete prima donna and he felt mortified. She was grabbing all the toys away from her friends and shouting ‘you can’t play with that’. He started off by giving her the lecture about sharing and admonishing her for being selfish and acting spoilt. Then he realised it was all about ownership. He took her aside and told her quietly that he thought she was having a really hard time sharing because she was worried that the other children didn’t know that the toys belonged to her. He told her ‘Ella, these toys definitely belong to you and when they leave the party the other kids will give back your toys. So you have a choice. Either you share them now or we can put them on a high shelf so nobody gets to play with them. Which would you like to choose?’ Ella thought about it and said ‘will the toys still belong to me even if I share them?’ Dad replied that they are definitely Ella’s toys. After that she went off happily and let all her friends share. It is so important to step into our children’s shoes when we see behaviour we don’t like. It is especially hard when it is an ‘ugly’ emotion like jealousy. This is very likely to happen over  at a siblings birthday party or at Christmas when one sibling gets something the other wants or a friend gets a bigger or better present than your child. Remember - children have raw and very immediate reactions to things. They don’t have the capacity to get things into perspective. It is our job to help them be appreciative and to not have a sense or entitlement. To do this it takes thought and the ability to stop and not react to the behaviour you see. Instead of saying ‘I can’t believe how mean you are being, it is your sister's birthday and you should be nice to her.’ Say something like ‘it is really hard when it is your sister's birthday and she's getting presents and you aren't. It looks like you feel jealous of her which is a normal emotion. I think that's why you tore the paper off before she had a chance to open the present'