When can children start sharing? And how can you learn it?

Sometimes my son and I sit together and he wants to share his holy yogurt with me. His favorite food. He does not calculate how much he has left or how little he has left. He just gives me something. And sometimes again, there he sits on a mountain of sand toys, the parts of which he demonstrably cannot play at the same time and his sister would like a small shovel. And he can’t give up anything from his mountain. Nothing at all. Or he has visitors and wants to touch his beloved excavator. Just touch it. Not possible. Out of the blue. Why is that?

The feeling of being me

Before children can actively hand in something, they must first notice that there is a “mine” and “your” at all. It’s not that easy for the little ones. To a certain extent, people are able to put themselves in others, this ability is called the theory of mind in psychology. However, this ability has to be worked out first. Children are self-reliant in the first three years of life. The child experiences himself as the focus and at the same time part of his world (Remo H. Largo). The boundaries between the child and its surroundings are blurred. Little by little, children take a different part in the emotional world. An indication that children are beginning to understand that there is a difference between tantrums between the world and themselves. Children must be accompanied carefully. Sometimes smiled at by parents, but often noted with displeasure, phases of defiance are not only part of it. They even help the children work out their own “I”. However, years pass before they have a definition of possession similar to that of us adults.

This is what happens when “forcing to share”:

At the age of two, children count everything that belongs to their own “self” as part of their life. Forcing them to share their soft toy is actually forcing them to give up part of themselves. It’s pretty nasty. It takes years for children to have a real one sense get for justice. And you can’t force it by pushing it to share. On the contrary: If you don’t have to be afraid that something will be snatched against your will, you can be more generous in the long run. At least several studies point to this.

Two exciting study results:

The Swiss experimental economist Ernst Fehr put their partial enthusiasm to the test with three to eight year olds. The children were more willing to share the older they got. In another study, the two developmental psychologists Nadia Chernyak and Tamar Kushnir found that children prefer to share when they have voluntarily decided to do so instead of just following the parental warning. They also preferred to share their stickers later if they had voluntarily decided to share beforehand.

So what can we parents do?

Let the child have his own

If a child is allowed to keep things that it has been allowed to learn and that its wishes are respected, it can voluntarily give something – at least later. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Life is a learning process and nobody wants to spend their lives alone on a mountain of sand toys.

What you shouldn’t do: Just take it away. Neither the “winner” has any of this conflict, nor the robbed child. Better: help the children to put their wishes into words. “You want to dig with two shovels of sand. One with each hand. – And of course you also want to play along. Shall we ask the till if you should give him a mold so that he can fill the sand? ”By giving adults both children a voice and playing through the conflict, we not only take the explosives out of the situation, we also show how the children could find solutions themselves. The children can take over again at any time.

Talk about feelings

A child always has a reason if he doesn’t want to give something out. Maybe it is with the Not finished playing yet, or he loves this sand shovel because he got it from his friend, or is afraid that the other child might break something. The same applies here: parents should help their children to put their feelings and their conflict into words. Best without rating – Not that easy.

Be a role model

As always, the same applies here: children learn from their role models: share your dessert with him. Offer him your cloth as sun protection or ask him if you can try his ice cream. Use the word "share" to describe what you are doing.

Learning to be hot and growing

People’s childhoods take quite a long time. In some people into adulthood. That is also because there is so much to discover and develop for human children. We should give our children the time and space they need. And be patient. And just leave them alone. Children are not small Adults. They learn to share and be considerate if we set an example for them. And not by coercion. It’s the same with politeness, by the way.


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Christina Cherry
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