Throw Away your Timer: Why Kids Learn More when they Don’t “Share”

Sharing squabbles? Teach your child impulse control and positive assertiveness.

Sharing squabbles? Teach your child impulse control and positive assertiveness.

As soon as children are old enough to walk, we expect them to share. I prefer putting “share” in quotes, since this type of sharing is usually forced by the adult. Our goals are noble: kindness, generosity, awareness of others. Unfortunately, our approach backfires.

Kids learn more life skills –and develop better generosity–when they aren’t forced to share.

Of course, sharing squabbles happen all the time between kids. Here’s a typical scene: One child is busily engaged with a toy when a new child comes up and wants it. A nearby adult says: “Be nice and share your toys,” or “Give Ella the pony. You’ve had it a long time.” What happens? The child is forced to give something up and her play gets interrupted. She learns that sharing feels bad. It’s the parent who’s sharing here, not the child.

Traditional sharing expects kids to give up something the instant someone else demands. Yet we don’t do this ourselves. Imagine being on your cell phone when somebody suddenly comes up and asks for your phone or takes it from you. “I need to make a phone call,” he says. Would you get mad? As adults, we expect people to wait their turn. We might gladly lend our phone to a friend or even a stranger, but we want them to wait until we’re done. The same should apply to kids: let the child keep a toy until she’s “all done.” It’s turn-taking. It’s sharing. But the key is it’s child-directed turn-taking.

Positive assertiveness

Here’s what it looks like in real life. Instead of YOU saying “Five more minutes, then it’s Ella’s turn” or “I’m going to set the timer,” teach your child to say “You can have it when I’m done.” This teaches positive assertiveness. It helps kids stand up for themselves and learn to set boundaries on other kids. What a terrific life skill. How many of us as adults have trouble saying “no?”

True Generosity and Awareness of Others

When the first child drops the toy and moves on, remind her that Ella’s waiting for a turn (a great lesson in courtesy and awareness of others). The best part of all is when the first child willingly hands over the toy—it’s a joyous moment for both kids. That’s the moment when your child experiences the rush of good feelings that comes from being kind to others. It’s true generosity. It’s a warm feeling. One she’ll want to repeat over and over – whether a parent is watching or not.

Emotional Impulse Control

What about the waiting child? Waiting is hard, especially for impulsive 2-6 year olds, but just like assertiveness, waiting is an excellent life skill. It’s OK for the waiting child to feel frustrated, sad or angry for a time. Don’t be afraid of a few foot stompings or tears. Learning to control behavior and express intense feelings appropriately is really the main job of early childhood. Impulse control (waiting for a toy and not grabbing) is a vital part of brain development and gets stronger through practice. The more practice kids get, the better. Sharing through turn-taking provides excellent practice.

Life is much more relaxing when you stop playing referee.  Throw away your timer. Kids pick up the new method quickly, because it’s fair and simple. Let kids keep a toy until they are “all done.”

Words you can say

Positive assertiveness
– You can play with it until you’re all done.
– Are you finished with your turn? Max says he’s not done yet.
– Did you like it when he grabbed your truck? Tell him to stop!
– Say: “I’m not done. You can have it when I’m done.”
– She can have a turn. When she’s all done, you can have a turn.
– I see Bella still has the pony. She’s still using it.
– You’ll have to wait. I can’t let you take it out of her hands.

Waiting and awareness of others
– Oh, it’s so hard to wait!
– You’re so mad. You really want to play with the pony right now!
– You can be mad, but I can’t let you take the toy.
– Will you tell Max when you’re all done?
– I see you’re not using the truck any more. Go find Ben. Remember, he’s waiting for a turn.

It's OK Not to Share coverCurious to learn more? See this sharing video and watch for future posts on taking loooong turns, hogging toys, waiting lists and making the transition to turn-taking.

Or check out a free sample chapter from the book It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids. Sharing and long turns are just two of the 29 “renegade rules.”

Did you ever resent sharing something as a child? Have you tried child-directed sharing?

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189 Responses to Throw Away your Timer: Why Kids Learn More when they Don’t “Share”

  1. Shanda Fitte says:

    Love this!!!

    • katherine Harris says:

      How about ” I’ll share it with just a little while” or “I’m having fun- could you come back in 5 minutes?”????????????? I think telling a child to say “I’ll give it to you when I’m done” is encouraging a child to be self-centered and rude. K.S. Harris

      • miss muffin says:

        Couldn’t agree more! The type of parents who buy into this theory are also the type who raise their children not to wait their turn AND expect other children to wait for their child to finish! I wonder how this principle works when a child is deliberately holding onto a toy in order to retain control over the other child – passive aggressive not positive assertiveness!

        • DB says:

          Miss Muffin, I’ve actually experienced the complete opposite of what you are assuming when using this same type of method on my children and others I work with. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that children learn very quickly that it is much more pleasant to share when you aren’t forced into it. It’s actually the other way around- making kids share (whether it be verbally commanding, setting timers, etc.), that turns them into impatient, entitled brats. They feel entitled to play with something just because they want to, without having care or concern for the other person’s feelings. So just like in everything else, they model that behavior, not caring what the other person thinks or wants, and expecting to have their toys “snatched”. Whereas when they are given the opportunity to share when they are finished playing, they learn to think about how the other person feels, and they get to feel the joy of willingly brightening the person’s moment by handing over something they want. The child on the receiving end models this and learns to consider the other person’s feelings instead of constantly worrying about having to hoard their toys.

          • Deb says:

            All parental judgments of children’s behavior must be clear, about the child’s intention. Then you know what to address. I don’t believe making children share, turns them into brats. I do think if you always make a child share, no matter what the situation, it is not a positive influence in the child’s development. I understand your point, in the lesson of giving and receiving, it is such an important life lesson for all of us. I say to my children, “selfishness is not acceptable.” Children respond to our expectations of them, so I think communication and letting them know what is okay is important.

          • Holly says:

            I agree with you 110%, DB.
            I like the mention of – what if we applied this to adults? I think of things that way all the time with my children and I think it helps me make better decisions with them. I’m baffled by the way children are treated in ways we wouldn’t dream of treating another adult.
            I don’t think children would want to be mean, or take advantage of the situation if the parenting style was similar to what this article is expressing. Maybe the child would hold on to the toy just to not let the other child have a turn if they were raised in a setting where adults are manipulative or controlling. Sure kids have bad days and certainly nobody is perfect, but generally this is what I think.

          • Deb says:

            I would like to bring to point that children can learn from many sources around them. Babies are remarkably intelligent. Some kids regardless of consistent well executed parenting bring their own attitudes to the table even at a very young age. As years go by, you will see not everything can be blamed on the parents. With that said, parenting is of course a strong influence in developing child development.

          • Holly says:

            I think it was Naomi Aldort that said… you can tell how children are just by meeting their parents. My kids definitely pick things up from others in our lives, though.
            A child that holds on to the toy and ‘takes advantage’ of the situation might be trying to gain some control over his life. I’d let him hang on to it.

          • I see this generosity and kindness in our classroom daily. The child who engages in the passive aggressive hoarding soon learns that it is far more pleasant to explore and work with something and then return it for the next person to use. They trust that they can work with something for as long as they want and that they will not be forced to share. More often than not they will invite a friend to work with them and manage disappointment very well when they are not invited. It works! Do not force them!

        • Jess Gilbert says:

          ^Agreed! This “positive assertiveness” can also lead to bullying!

        • Leslie says:

          Parents who prefer this perspective are (ideally) committed to teaching the flip side of it too. If I noticed that my four-year-old was “deliberately holding on to a toy” then I would address that too–both the demanding and nagging a friend for a turn is bad and the withholding for selfish reasons is bad. Both are heart issues parents are responsible to correct. I think the author’s point is that you can’t force morality. You have to model it and encourage it early on. This strategy works for us and I find the light bulb coming on more and more as my preschooler figures out that it feels good to honor God and others with kindness and generosity.

          • Michelle Harris says:

            Thanks Leslie, Yes, parents and teachers who use this philosophy are diligent to notice those negative “holding” behaviors and address them. We adults have to teach both sides. The whole idea is that we have to TEACH them empathy–not just demand it. For my family it is not about a god, but rather about The Golden Rule. It feels good to honor yourself and others. It feels good to be honored too.

        • Jennifer says:

          I disagree. I follow this exact principle with my 19 month old and while I do not force sharing, I encourage it and praise her when she CHOOSES to share. As a result I have a very patient and polite toddler who who waits her turn and willingly gives other children a turn and shares because she chooses to out of the goodness of her own heart. To watch my child joyfully share with others of her own volition makes me a proud mother.

          • Deb says:

            nice job mom.

          • Michelle says:

            Or you have a child who is learning to respond in a way that you want and is actually manipulative and responds very differently when you are not present and applying pressure. It is not how children respond to your presence but to your absence that tells of their true morality.

          • Brayden says:

            Jennifer, good job. I think you have down, keep up the good work.
            Michelle, I’ve never met a 19 month old cunning enough to completely mask cold calculating manipulation from a parent. Young children respond well to positive reinforcement and generally don’t so drastically different when their parents aren’t around. If the post were about teenagers or young adults, then maybe you’d have an argument, but a child who isn’t even 2 yet? Really?

          • jenny s says:

            If you only praise when she shares then you can’t be sure she’s sharing from her own volition. Praising children is useful for training them but it is a double edged sword. If she is not equally praised for assertive behavoiur, for saying no, for standing up for what she wants, for playing with a toy even when someone else wants it, then she might be vulnerable to sharing more than she really wants to when she is a teenager and young woman. There might be things you wouldn’t want her to feel she has to share to get or keep some man’s approval.

        • kim maher says:

          It’s not teaching them to be selfish..they will share when they’re done….if someone wanted to borrow something of yours, but you’re using it at the time, would you let that person borrow it? NO, you’ll tell them “I’m using it right now, but when I’m done, you’re welcome to it.” This approach does indeed teach a child to be assertive and generous at the same time. I used this approach all the time when my kids were young. They are now in their 30s and are generous and compassionate adults. And they can assert themselves and are not push overs. This approach works.

          • Deb says:

            Me too. My 3 are in their 30’s and I handled my parenting from the same perceptive and I have the same result with mine.

        • Sheri says:

          I agree with this. My oldest has not been “done” with her toy for a long time just so that someone else can not have it. What to do then?

          • Thomas Beagle says:

            I think that’s where the “one toy at a time” rule comes in real handy.

            Yes, you can hang on to that toy as long as you like. But you can’t stockpile all the toys because you’re only allowed one at a time. And aren’t you getting bored of just holding onto that one toy to stop someone else playing with it when they’re now playing with other things?

          • Tanya says:

            When a child wants something another child has… we have always said… “Tell them you want a turn when they are done” and they find something else to do while they ‘wait’. It seems to work fine.

        • M Wilkinson says:

          I am a parent who not only buys into this theory, but used it in my classroom, and never had the negative expectations or experiences you describe. I used this approach as a preschool teacher for 12 years, and it works well when promoted consistently and fairly. Children overall become both confident and compassionate. Of course, there are always children who try to bend the rules or not follow through with the agreement, and then they just need more scaffolding of the skills. The “you can have it when I’m done” power concern can be mitigated with a teacher helping both children come to an agreement about time limits. If the possessor of the toy does not follow through with the exchange, the teacher can step in and enforce the agreement in a respectful and supportive way. We expect so much social-emotional maturity from children who have been on the planet for such a short period of time. We help children learn empathy for others by experiencing it from others. Children who are routinely forced to share either become even more possessive and aggressive around objects, or simply just learn to let others walk all over them.

        • RB says:

          I agree. My son was playing with a friend that held on to one of my son’s toy just so my son didn’t have it. one time his friend put the toy on the couch and played with something else and when my son came into the room that child ran for the toy to have it again.

      • Alyssa says:

        Could not agree more!! I find this to be a ridiculous way of thinking. These children are going to grow up to self centered, rude and selfish!! We as adults know how to share and understand that we do not always get our way because we learned how to share!

        • Dana says:

          Telling a child they can’t come up and snatch something from another kid simply because they want it is a ridiculous way of thinking? Or telling a child that they have to learn to be patient if another child is already nicely playing with a toy and they have to learn to be patient is a ridiculous way of thinking?

        • Jon says:

          I actually think you didn’t read the article very well, or aren’t following the flip side of the interaction to it’s logical conclusion. Setting the expectation that a child can limit the freedom or ability to choose of another child just by imposing their will via trying to take a toy away would have the negative effect you are talking about. That would encourage bullying and selfish-ness. “I want this toy so all i have to do is try to take it, if i succeed, then great, if i don’t I expect that in 3 minutes that i’ll get it anyway. because I want it.”

        • Allyssa says:

          There’s a difference between an infant/child learning the skills and a teenager/adult who should know the skills. If you come up and ask for my phone, am I going to give it to you? Probably not, especially if I don’t know you. If I do, I’ll let you use it when I’m finished. How is teaching a child in the same way we act going to make them selfish and rude? Is it rude that I don’t hand over my phone immediately? No, because it’s MY phone and it’s valuable. If you don’t “share” the way you try teach your children to, you’re a hypocrite.

          • Hillary says:

            But if your friend comes up to you and asks to use your phone, are you going to continue to have what would have otherwise been an hour long conversation? I would wrap up my call quicker, knowing someone was waiting their turn… I agree, don’t hand over the toy instantly, but you also don’t get to play with it “as long as you want”…

        • jenny s says:

          What do you share of yours with people who don’t have as much as you? Your car, your weekly food shop, your house? If we adults really knew how to share would there be so much inequality in the world? Children notice inequality and it confuses and upsets them, all the more confusing because if they are made to share how come adults aren’t!!?

      • Amanda says:

        I agree. I like the idea of not forcing the child to give it up immediately just because someone else wants it. But I don’t want to teach my kids to be selfish and take their time, just because someone else is waiting (which is what my 3-year-old would probably do).

      • JV says:

        yeah and i agree with your thoughts here and maybe the things that parents should explain it first on what sharing is all about. 🙂

      • Deb says:

        I would make a judgement of the intent of the child’s words. An older sibling may say those things to a younger sibling to help explain fair play. I think if a child is being mean or self centered they need to know that’s inappropriate behavior. The joys of parenting, always a challenge.

      • Heike Larson says:

        Katherine–It may be counter-intuitive, but by protecting a child’s right to play with a toy until he’s done, you increase his ability to be empathetic. We see this all the time in our Montessori classrooms: We have a clear “one-toy-at-a-time, then back on the shelf” rule. This protects children’s right to play undisturbed, unafraid of other children who might interrupt their attention. As a result, the children aren’t possessive: they know the adults will enforce this rule; they know their rights will be respected. If you observe, you’ll see this empathy in action: the 5-year-old who stops his work to help a three-year-old wipe up a spill; the 4-year-old who will comfort a younger child; the two children who prepare snack and serve it to others, politely, with a smile on their faces.

        I’ve seen the same thing with my two children at home. When my little boy would grab a toy from big sister, I would first encourage her to tell him to stop (“I’m not done yet!”). If he still grabbed I’d ask him to stop, and reaffirm her right to keep the toy until she was done. Very often, as soon as I made clear she could keep playing, she’d readily, voluntarily part with the toy. IT wasn’t about that one toy; it was about knowing she’d have her space, her (temporary) property protected! Similarly, at playgrounds, even with children they don’t know well, my two are very likely the ones to invite other children to join their play. I think it’s because they know I have their back: they never, ever need to be afraid that another child will just grab the toys they are playing with. They know I’ll be on their side, that I’ll stand up for them if they don’t succeed on their own–instead of (in their minds!) betraying them by giving their toy, against their will, to someone else.

        If you are able to view others as potential, chosen playmates, rather than rivals who can interrupt you at will, you’re much more likely to value them. Children, like adults, are more likely to truly, voluntarily share if they come from a place of strength, and if they view the other person as a friend, not a potential threat.

      • Sue says:

        What’s rude and self-centered is a child who thinks he/she can go up to another child and suddenly take over something being used by someone else.

      • Ruth says:

        I agree

    • Rebecca Wayne says:

      How would you handle the situation if a child grabs.the toy out of the other child’s hands? (Still using positive assertiveness?

      • Deb says:

        I am a mom of 3 and with mine the same approach doesn’t always work with each of them. I tell them the rules, and if I have to correct grabbing,
        I calmly take the toy away and hold onto it myself. At the child’s eye level, I explain the rule again. Consistency is the key. It may take a while. lol

  2. Such simple common sense. Even after I’ve read your book, Heather, it still amazes me how your approach impresses me with its wisdom and logic.

  3. Cari says:

    Would you say that all toys within a household, say, then are communal property? Had a situation with my two where older was denying younger a chance to play with something (a hard hat) because it was his. He didn’t want to just finish his turn – he never wanted her to have a turn. It absolutely was his, a birthday gift. Is that grounds to claim it permanently? I think I got out of it by calling them both to dinner, but curious how you would handle.

    • Liz P. says:

      I allow my toddler and the three children in my care to have ‘special’ items that they are not required to let the others play with and have found it works really well. They all understand when someone says, “That’s my special toy” and hand it back willingly and easily.

      • Dawn says:

        Cari, I agree with you. I wouldn’t like it if someone decided they wanted to use something of mine that I cherished. Maybe it’s something with sentimental value, or maybe it something I have waited a long time for. No matter what the reason, I see nothing wrong with personal ownership. It teaches kids how to care for something they own, and responsibility of ownership. Maybe there are community toys in the household which are fine to share, but not everything should be considered sharable. I would never expect my daughter to share something that is important to her, and she is 13 now, and a very generous person. There are other ways to teach generosity than to force a child to give up or share something they consider theirs.

      • Angela says:

        I wonder if *special toys* should be kept away from communal areas, then. Perhaps something for the child to play with on their own? Maybe I’m buying into common thought, but it seems mean to have a toy left out (I’m assuming it’s not being played with by the ‘owner’) that no one can play with. Thoughts?

        • Jolene Collins says:

          My children have had a few special toys in their lifetimes. I don’t make them share those toys, if kids come over, those special toys get put away. We don’t take special toys to parks or parties. My son, for example, loves RC cars and likes to take them when we go to parks or on walks. always tell him to make sure he brings one he is willing to share and leave his most coveted ones at home.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Cari, find a rule that fits your world. I grew up where toys given as bday presents were separate – I had to ask my brother before using one of his toys. My kids don’t seem to care about whose toy is whose, so most toys are communal. Either way works, as long as you’re consistent and kids can trust the house rules.

      Sometimes asking “what are you worried about?” or “what will happen if Zach plays with that toy?” can draw out the real issue going on. Often kids say no when they have a hidden fear. Other times it’s about control. Kids sometimes have a deep need for control. That’s OK. Controlling something is a way to begin to trust the world. When the child is ready, they’ll drop the need to control the object.

    • Katrina says:

      Another option is to have birthday gifts etc belong to the child for a set amount of time (possibly a year in older kids, so between birthdays) and then it defaults to become a communal toy. I don’t think a year would work for, say, a 2yo, but this might be able to be adjusted for younger kids.

    • William Palfreman says:

      Souns reasonable. If it belongs to the child directly, then it is his. He decides. That’s the whole ponit about ownership.

    • Tammy says:

      My boys are 4 and 6 and both into the same things. Any new toys given to one child (birthday/xmas) is solely his for that day, then becomes ‘their toy’ unless it is age inappropriate for the youngest one… therefore most lego is communal but the sets which have been carefully made up are eldests. Cuddlies are the only exception but 6yr old keeps his in bed.
      When friends visit anything ‘new or special’ is put away first.

  4. Jill Dodds says:

    So simple. So brilliant.

  5. Kami says:

    @Cari: in our house, all toys are communal (even those received as gifts by one child) EXCEPT their loveys (of which they each have a few that regularly go to bed with them). They are never required to allow the other to play with loveys, even if they themselves are not playing with them, but everything else is up for grabs.

  6. Teddy says:

    Generally, this rule seems appropriate. If applied too often, I think it could breed competition and rancor among children, especially when there is limited time and limited resources–which is the case in most school-based environments. In the home, sure, Max, you can wait till later because there aren’t really external time constraints.

    Some things really do have to be shared. (Especially since there can be dispute about what constitutes being “finished” with a material.)

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Teddy. Interesting – the basis of this turn-taking philosophy came from a school. It works well in schools, daycare programs and homes. The key is making sure it’s applied all the time – that way kids trust the system, relax about competition, and actually start sharing spontaneously on their own. Waiting lists can help out in group settings.

      I agree, some things do need to be shared (ex: birthday cake; a climber outside). When in doubt if a child is finished – ask the child. She’s the only one who knows.

  7. Liz P. says:

    I love child-directed sharing and find it works beautifully; the children in my care picked the concept up quickly and ran with it. I find their conflicts around sharing are resolved faster and stay resolved longer when they are doing the resolving on their own.

  8. Teresa Troy says:

    What worked for us was saying in front of both of them. “ Why can’t your sister use it when you are done?” Of course he claimed ownership and that she would break it. I would then ask her, “ Would you break it if you used it or would you be careful?” She would always tell me that she would be careful. I would then say, “This is Michael’s and he is worried about it but while he holds it, you come over and touch it. I hope that he will trust you and let you use it sometime on your own.” Oh did he hate that and protested the entire time but just the same it gave him control but also showed him that in the end, it would be alright.
    I would then thank my son and say to him, “ If you do not want to let others use this that is your choice but you will need to keep it in your room. I hope some day you will see that allowing others to use your things is the right thing to do. Now, I’ll give you a choice, you can either let her take a look at what you have by herself or if it is that special, go find something that you don’t mind her using for a few minutes. You can sit with her if you are worried but it will show her that you are kind and a great brother.” This was my little way of using reverse Psychology and it gave him some control over the situation.
    To be honest, I think my daughter became a better person for it because she shares everything and will always say, “ I want to share because I know what it feels like when someone doesn’t.” Believe it on not, they are now 16 and 12 and they get along very well.
    Good luck!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Sounds as if you were able to get at the root of his fears – that she would break his precious item. I’m not at all surprised that they get along very well now as teens. You were able to give them understanding and space for their emotions. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Old School Arts & Learning Center says:

    In our group child care setting we keep a “sign-up” list for taking turns using a special item. This allows the kids who are waiting to move on to something else and still know their turn will come – even if that turn doesn’t happen until tomorrow!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Ah, yes, the written waiting list. Perfect. The kids can see it and know their turn won’t be forgotten. Works like a charm, doesn’t it?

  10. Liz says:

    This is a bunch of nonsense…trying to reason why a common act of kindness of sharing as negative. I have teens and have recently seen current generations raising their children with a mentality of “the world revolves around me and don’t think of others… It’s all about me.” A child learns about being selfish and being inconsiderate of others by not sharing. Sharing is a basic act of kindness– something that I wanted my children to know as adults. I have taught my children, through the act of sharing, that if you see someone less fortunate…. Share what you have… Ie– a homeless person in need to something as simple as sharing your lunch at school for someone who has forgotten theirs. It is a shame you are not reinforcing other ways to teach positive assertiveness in other methods and taking away the kindness and true positive act of sharing. Sorry to disappoint you but my boys are not traumatized by having been encouraged to “share”–they know how to give as young adults and not feel slighted by offering to share what others less fortunate may not have— and they aren’t lacking in positive assertiveness. Unbelievable!!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      The ultimate goal is sharing and kindness in both methods. So glad you’ve raised kind and considerate young men.

      • allison says:

        Heather, I appreciate how you took this comment in stride and responded with grace and respect. A good example you set!

        • Aneeka says:

          I was about to say the same! Well done, Heather. Today I’ve learnt from both your article and your attitude. Thank you.

    • Maria says:

      I agree with Heather that it’s wonderful that you’ve raised kind and generous children. However, I think you missed the point. She does not want to discourage sharing. In fact she is encouraging it by allowing it to come from within rather than without.

      I do not force my students to share. In fact, I have found that more often than not, they WANT to share. It’s also a great opportunity for the waiting child to learn patience.

    • Leslie says:

      What about sharing with people are not “less fortunate” like your siblings or some kid who has more than you? Sharing is an issue of the heart. The point is that you cannot force it. Teach that selfishness is wrong, however it looks. It’s not always the kid who’s not “sharing,” it may be the kid who’s whining at Mama’s feet that brother won’t “share.”

    • Sonja says:

      It appears as if you missed the point. The whole idea is that through sharing when they are ready and willing they learn that sharing feels GOOD (and will probably want to do it again). if sharing is forced they learn that sharing feels horrible (but will probably still share because of your conditional love)

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  12. fazy says:

    this is lovley! Yes, i remember being offended when i was made to share instantaneously things that i had worked hard to get (eg: waiting ages for a turn at the swings, only to be told to get off because my sister wanted it now and started crying). it taught me to be selfish, and to achieve comfort by being quiet and scheming, so that i can enjoy priviledges without drawing attention to myself. not exactly the most gracious of adults.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      The criers often learn to manipulate sharing to get their way, don’t they? Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story.

  13. Polly says:

    Once area of sharing that I do differently. That is items of the public domain. If there is a line for the jumpy toy at the playground and the toy is of the public domain, then I encourage sharing. However, I still don’t enforce it. I simply make her aware that the toy is not hers personally and it is there for the purpose of all children. Since I never forced sharing with her personal toys, she quickly and easily takes turns.

  14. Siri says:

    Thoughts on what to say to kids about sharing something more than just a toy, like a swing on a playgroud, for example. Say there are 30 pre-schoolers and only 3 swings. It doesn’t seem right to let one kids sit on the swing for an hour while 5 others are waiting, just because he wasn’t “ready” to give it up.

  15. Katrina says:

    I need help with this. We do well with allowing the kids to figure out the turns on their own when it comes to toys. The biggest issue we have revolves around the ipad. My oldest daughter is 7 and she would play for HOURS. So we have set limits on screen time until I figure out how to work this one. Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Veronica says:

      Oh yes same here! I have the same situation! With electronics, kids are never finished!
      I also set time limits but they never seem happy with what they get. If I let them, they could play for hours, scary! I only let them play with it after they are done with their daily responsibilities, and so they do, but when it comes to stop playing and passing it to the sibling, they are never ready nor happy. I don’t hing they get the warm nice feeling of sharing because they never have enough. Any advice is welcome! Pete, thank you you all your amazing advice! I love doing things positively!

    • Annie says:

      Yeah, srceen time…

      With two computers and five children, we sometimes use timer with screen time. What we do though is asking the child before he starts using it: How long do you think you’ll need it? or What do you want to do with it?

      When timer is used we ask the child to set it. And it works fine.

      We find it’s much more flexible that way. Our 7 years old’s computer needs aren’t the same as our 12 years old and they can pretty well evaluate beforehand for themselves what they want to do with the computer or how long they want to use it. And since we have an agreement it’s easier for them to share or to leave the computer when their time is up.

    • winter says:

      Hi! When my 2 year old plays with my 8 year old niece, they both want to play on the ipad….what to do? Find games that the 8 year old can help play. They play fun games together, they ask questions and take turn touching the ipad. Or, let the younger child choose an app, play one round, then let the 8 year old choose, etc..It might take time but eventually, they may be able to have fun Together. 😀

    • Lindsey says:

      Sometimes we set limits, too–like if we are playing outside and there is only one swing and 5 kids want a turn on it. My toddler would stay on all day if he could! But since we are only outside for an hour or so, it’s important to me and everyone else that they all get a turn on the swing. We’ll set a timer for ten minutes and switch off so everyone gets to go who wants to. 🙂

      We used to do the ‘forced sharing’ thing and it was awful. My 5-year-old is STILL a bit of a hoarder (as a toddler/preschooler he would gather half a dozen toys in his arms so that he couldn’t even play with them but refused to let them go, he would just sit in a corner and cry if anyone looked his way…we seriously created a monster with the forced sharing!), although he has gotten much, much better over time. Our house is SO MUCH more peaceful now that they don’t *have* to share. 😀

    • Keri says:

      In our house, the ipad belongs to my 10 yr old son (he earned it by selling a certain $$ of Cub Scout popcorn). But even though it’s HIS, once we realized that the kids would want to spend hours on it each day, my husband decided that each child (the 10 yr old & the 11 yr old) would get 1 hour of screen time per day. Of course, they have to have homework & chores finished first, and if they “mess up” behavior wise, it’s the first thing that’s taken away. But for their 1 hour, we designate which child’s hour it is, and the other one can watch them play. At the end of their hour, they switch (if appropriate) and then the first one can watch the second do their time, either by watching videos or playing a game. We as the parents decide whose time that hour is, and the child in control of the iPad gets to decide what to watch or play, and the other knows their time is coming (or knows they screwed up that day & don’t get any) so it works out very well.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Sounds as if you’ve been getting lots of good advice about screen time.

      Very true: “With electronics, kids are never finished.”

      You’re absolutely right, screens are a separate category. They are incredibly addictive to kids and a timer may be highly appropriate in this area.

    • Aricha Drury says:

      For us, timing “screen time” isn’t about turn-taking at all, it is about setting reasonable limits for an individual child.

  16. jim says:

    My young nephews are always fighting over toy cars whenever they come to grandma’s house. There are lots of small toy car but the eldest would gather almost all, especially the nice ones and play with them. The younger two could only watch. Eventhough they were initially given same quantity of cars, since they are playing together, the older nephew’s always seem to get more. Any suggestions?

    • john keith says:

      Your younger nephews are not as smart as the eldest? Too bad for them if they give them up.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      This sounds like an on-going conflict. Ask the younger ones “Did you like it when he took your cars? Did you want to keep playing with them?” Help them learn to set limits on their older brother. Help the kids say exactly what they don’t like, what they’re worried about, then see if they can problem solve. This is the essence of teaching kids conflict mediation skills. You may be interested in my chapter “Kids Need Conflict” ( which gives 10 steps to guide kids through these situations.

  17. Rene says:

    I completely agree. This is my approach as well. I am a behavioral therapist and work with children 15 months to 6 years old. I also use the “when your done with it” approach. I can’t stand when I see a child that thinks sharing means if I want it the other person needs to hand it over. I see this often and it is the fault of the adults. As far as I am concerned, a part of sharing is some times you do not get a turn. For the most part, adults seem to have more of a problem with that then the children.

  18. Michael Ballenger says:

    Have you considered the impact that “forced sharing” has on the child that’s asking for an item? The idea of forced sharing has always bothered me because I feel it enables and even encourages selfish and controlling behavior in the child that’s asking for (and sometimes demanding) the item. Instead of asking, and being content with “no”, they come to feel entitled to take what they want, and if they can’t get it by asking, they get angry and take it by force–either physically taking the item away, or running to an adult and having THEM take the item away.

  19. Jenn says:

    In our house we’ve always used a bit of a combination of the two ideas. I would ask the child with the desired object “how many minutes until so-and-so gets a turn?” (Setting up a precedent that 57 minutes is not an okay answer because that’s not being very kind). . The kid with the object has a sense of control, the kid who is waiting knows what to expect, there’s very little drama and someone isn’t stuck waiting forever for a toy…my three have less than three total years between them so this was something that used to come up a lot. Now at 7, 6, and 4 they still squabble over things but almost always can work it out nicely on their own.

  20. Greg says:

    Like most advice, this is not one size fits all. My kids don’t need to learn positive assertiveness or generosity. My kids need to be taught to think of fair and practical solutions for making one, say, computer work for two kids. A timer (managed by them) works great. There are other options. “You can have it when I’m done” isn’t one of them. Additionally, I think the implication that kids will learn to treat others well by virtue of stumbling upon, and then seeking to duplicate, good feelings associated with altruism is naive. Those feelings should certainly be nurtured, but it’s also extremely important to instill positive behaviors in kids as patterns and habits enforced by the parent. If kids go through life following what feels good, they’ll be in for a hard road.

  21. Alicia says:

    What about if you have one child who can’t yet talk and other children (especially his brother) take things from him or if he wants something that one of the other kids has. How does this method work with younger kids? The kids I watch are between 1.5 and 8.

  22. Taylor says:

    This is brilliant and makes perfect sense. I dont like forcing kindness just to make others feel better. Another example is saying “sorry.” I will never force my child to apologize for something he is not sorry for, even if he SHOULD be sorry. As a child, I felt like I was being forced to lie every time I was forced to apologize, and that’s not a good life lesson.

    But I have a question how to handle this situation. My son is going on 3, and my best friend visited this weekend with her 3yr old daughter. We got out some toys for them, and they were playing happily. But then my son decided that ANY toy the little girl played with, he wanted for himself. Even things he hadnt been even slightly interested in for weeks beforehand. Then upon taking a toy from her, he wouldnt even play with it himself; he just didnt seem to want her playing with his toys. We reminded him that there were plenty of toys to choose from and it was ok for her to have one. He handled it ok, but tips for future situations would be great.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      “Kids don’t have to say ‘sorry'” is another chapter in my renegade rules book!

      Sometimes young kids have a fear about their toys. It can help to say “She won’t take it home. This toy stays at our house. She’s just having a turn.” You’ve also probably done this, but setting out toys that everyone can play with ahead of time (and tucking others away) can help with playdates.

  23. Aurora says:

    My daughter is an only child but i use these same rules in my house when she has friends over. If it is something that she rly doesnt want someone else playing with, then it gets put away for when her friends are gone home. The same when she goes to a friends house. She is not allowed to take that “special toy” with her, and if she insists, then she understands that she has to take turns with it or play together with it. This works rly well for us but we run into some problems with other parents that try to force her to give up her toys to their children. In this situation my daughter will say “no, im going to put it away now” then she usually gives it to me or puts it in her back pack and doesnt take it out again.

  24. Mary says:

    I think this approach is interesting and it makes sense. However, I’m not convinced it would work in all scenarios. For example- the classroom gets a shiny, new toy. The “alpha child” (most, if not all, classrooms have one) might scoop up the toy and carry it around all day, so the other children will not have a chance. I have seen this happen. What about playing with a ball on the playground? The children are playing a game, and one player decides he wants it to be “his turn” again. What then? Or, what if that child decides he just wants to carry the ball around instead of playing the game? I’ve seen that happen too. It also worries me that we might be raising adults who have the “me me me” mindset. If a child is taught “it is mine until I am done with it”, what will they be like as adults? Here is an example- I am at work using the copier, I have a huge stack of papers to copy, and my coworker comes in with one thing to copy. Now, I would use common courtesy and step aside to let my coworker go ahead of me. But, would an adult who was raised with this philosophy even think to do that? Or would they say “You can have it when I am done with it”? Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying this method won’t work. I am simply saying that I am not sure it will work in every scenario, and I am not sure how it will affect them as adults. Thoughts??

    • Melissa says:

      In my opinion, not forcing sharing ensures that the “alpha-child” has no reason to pick up a toy and keep it all day. If he/she knows he can play with it until he is finished, he is not spitefully keeping the toy in order to gain some misplaced sense of control. And I don’t see how this method creates a “me-me-me” mindset any more than forcing a child to share when they don’t want to. The selfish feelings are there either way, it’s only human. Allowing a child to choose when and what they want to share encourages more altruism and empathy, because they feel their own feelings are taken into consideration by adults. When a child feels heard and understood (instead of having their feelings, selfish or not, dismissed), they are much more likely to hear, understand, and empathize with other children, rather than being hyper-focused on themselves.

      Saving this article to use with my own children and in my classroom 🙂

  25. Amanda says:

    I think I need to start taking this approach with my boys. Although they’re usually pretty good….when one of them first gets a new toy, they usually like to keep it to themselves for a while, which we allow, and then eventually it’ll end up in the joint toy box and both of them will play with it. They each have a few of their own special toys that they don’t have to share.

  26. allison says:

    At the neighborhood playground one day, my little boy (then a toddler) and another little boy whom we’d just met at the playground were playing in a particular piece of playground equipment. It was a big plastic toy jeep; the boys were in the front, but the back seat was empty. A minute later, some older kids ran over to the jeep, jumped in the back and then pushed their way to the front and into the seats where my son and the other boy were sitting and pretending to ‘drive’ the jeep. Seeing that my son was literally pushed out of the seat, I picked him up, and we went to another area of the playground. The other little boy started to cry; his mother picked him up and said, “We have to share with these other kids.” I thought–but didn’t say–“Sharing?! These big kids weren’t sharing with our boys. They were taking from our kids, demanding what they wanted when they wanted it.” I was sad that she ‘comforted’ her child by telling him essentially that it was OK for these other kids to do what they’d done because her little guy needed to ‘share.’ Also, I’m inspired to think more on your words in this post, because it falls so much in line with teaching our children to be the boss of themselves, and to help develop internal motivation instead of external motivation.

  27. This is good, but when we focus on “sharing”, it’s more about not forcibly ripping a toy from another child who is playing with it than it is giving up one’s own toy. Like you said, we don’t allow toy snatching, but we do try to encourage our daughter to give up (or share) one toy if she is holding more than one…you know, discourage “hoarding” toys.

  28. Heidi says:

    I find this article very interesting. As a child, I had a really hard time sharing my stuff whenever I would go to daycare. Heck, it was mine, right? Why did I have to let others have it when I brought it from my own home? Because of my lack of willing to share, my daycare lady took my toy away, gave it to the other kids, put me in the crib with the door open to watch them all play with my things.

    It makes me wonder what I would have been like to this day if this article’s sharing ideas were in my early developmental life. Because I can certainly say right now that I still have a hard time sharing. Sure, I’m better at it. I used to let kids in my school borrow my pens and pencils. But I had to keep a watch out for them because they would then keep them.

    So no in college, I’m even having a hard time sharing with my roommate. (I’m not too bad, but I do have issues now and then.) I like your thinking in this article. Makes me wish I could see a different reality to see how I would have become vs what I am now to test your ideas.

    Good idea, though. 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      How horrible! And it obviously had a big impact because you still remember it today. I would like to think that if my kid was being mistreated that way, he would tell me, but who knows. I’m a SAHP so I still have some time before I worry about that one too much. :/

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for sharing your childhood story and its bitter memories. Bringing an item from home often confuses adults. A simple practice is to let kids know that something personal needs to stay in their hands or tucked away in their cubby. If it’s left on the floor or table, it’s understood to be open for other kids to play with.

      Dorothy Briggs says a child needs to experience “owning” (control of something) before they can share.

  29. Lena says:

    Great article!! Would love to translate this to german!

  30. Heike Larson says:

    Wonderful! This approach is exactly what happens in Montessori toddler and preschool classrooms each and every day–and it’s one of the reasons they are such benevolent environments, where children are truly generous and kind with each other.

    We have one simple rule about the Montessori materials children “work” with: You may take any material from a shelf–but not from a friend. When you are done, the material goes back on the shelf, and the child who has been waiting can take it from there.

    Like you says, this approach protects each child’s ability to fully engage in their activity, and it prevents the child from viewing others as a threat. It also encourages impulse control in the other children, especially as a Montessori classroom has only one of each activity, and reduces the risk that less assertive children get bullied around by more assertive ones.

    Because our students feel secure, because their rights are respected and the rules are clear, there are many fewer quarrels between children, and many more expressions of true kindness: I regularly witness slightly older children stop their activities to help younger ones who struggle, and children working together in chosen pairs or small groups.

    True kindness and benevolence comes from being centered, self-confident and non-threatened, from viewing others as values, and wanting to engage with them. Sharing (the mandated effect) cannot replace benevolence (the underlying cause).

  31. LNB says:

    Your children may be better at sharing, but they’ll also have poor grammar. People are never done with anything, they are finished. Done is a level of degree (e.g. cooking) it is not a state of being. People are finished, food is done. Your child is finished playing with a toy. Separately, there are much more polite ways to verbalize what the author is suggesting than barking out commands about waiting until they’re “done”.

    • CHoward says:

      I’m always amazed at the petty arguments people are willing to begin, and not sure why I’m even addressing it in return, but I am. I believe you are arguing with word usage, not grammar. Done is grammatically the past participle tense of do, and can be used in the case of “I am done playing” just as well as “I am finished playing”, and both can leave off the word playing. However, done also means ” arrived at or brought to an end” which is the first definition in my dictionary, whereas ‘cooked sufficiently’ is number five. Therefore, they have brought their playing to an end, and are, actually, done. There is also definition number four: physically exhausted, which is very much a state of being, and if written the way it is stated would often look like “I am DONE.” I am done with this post as well.

    • Thomas Beagle says:

      You might want to have a look at the following before trying to impose your ideas about proper language on others:

  32. Green Christian Mama says:

    I have triplets, and this would not work in my household. 🙂 One would never end their turn. We HAVE to do timed playing when all three want a special toy that only one can play with at a time.
    Still, my kids do well… for the most part…. with “trading”. And I always feel that buying three of the same toy, while okay for some special personal toys, can be a way of avoiding arguments which could be potential teaching moments. (Though mommy wishes to remain sane, on the other hand). Plus… we just can’t afford it 😛
    Forgive my digression.
    I particularly enjoyed the examples of positive and negative speaking. So great to have that spelled out. 🙂
    Good luck with continuing to be an awesome parent!

  33. Debra says:

    Nice post, it really winds me up when we’re at toddler groups and I tell my son not to take something from another child only for their parent to say ‘oh, it’s OK, they have to learn to share’ and then they take it from there child and give it to mine (arrggghhhh). That’s not teaching sharing, that’s the complete opposite and undermining everything I have just been trying to teach my son. (Ok, rant over, phew).

  34. Kelsey says:

    This is a joke. Whoever came up with this theory is just trying to justify their child’s spoiled behavior. The behavior this is encouraging is just plain rude. It is stuff like this that creates brats.

  35. Gabe says:

    This is a good idea. I will trying it out with my two year old. Thanks!

  36. Joanne says:

    As an early childhood educator, I fully support the author. This theory isn’t new – educators are taught this in school, and this is how we are encouraged to manage the classroom.

    I think some parents are missing the point. This theory doesn’t discourage children from sharing, it encourages communication among children by opening dialogue about feelings.

  37. Mama bear says:

    I have to say I do not agree with this at all. Teaching our children manners and to be polite and “share” is the right thing to do, period. We all parent differently, and I guess we all have reasons why we do, but teaching our children to do it on their own terms is allowing them to be the “boss” in the situation, and my child is NOT going to think he is a boss. He needs to learn that giving up things that he wants for others to be happy is good karma, and that he would be happy if children did the same for him. If we all did this approach with our children, then fighting would be non stop. Ridiculous, sorry.

    • Joel says:

      So, mama bear… Which child are we letting be the boss? The one playing with the toy, or the one wanting it? If you “force” an immediate “share” then you are letting the child who wants the toy to be the boss.
      And which child are you trying to teach about being polite and sharing? The one with the toy, or the one wanting it?

      You see, you (and so many others) are only thinking one sided here, and that’s the typical downfall. It was made clear in the original article – if the cihld is actively engaged in using the toy, they are currently taking “their turn.” Both children involved can be taught to have patience or to be selfish. How do you like to learn? Do you want your boss, or your spouse to insist you immediately give up your phone, or your book, or whatever so that you can “share” it? Should we really think that children aren’t affected the same way we are? And no, the article is not talking about a child “hogging” a toy, that is CLEARLY an intirely different topic and requires a different reponse. Whay do so many people who read this article not understand that???.

  38. This happened in our house this morning. One of my girls was playing with something and the other one wanted to. I said to the second, you can when she’s done. And not two minutes later, the first child gave it to her sister. With no prompting, but with a lot of joy! It is so awesome when our kids learn this!

  39. Rebecca says:

    We do encourage sharing. But I’ve never considered this description as sharing: forcing a child to give up something the very second another child wants it. I agree that only encourages resentment in the first child and selfishness in the 2nd child. That is not what I’ve ever heard the definition of “sharing” to be. But in contrary to the article, I feel that to allow a child to play with a toy as long as they want to without any limit, just until they are “done,” can have the opposite effect: selfishness/rudeness in the 1st child and causing the 2nd child to feel frustration (not solely from having to wait, which is good to learn, but from true unfairness at not being able to play with something the group has a right to). I feel that it is absolutely appropriate to give children time limits on toys they are playing with when in a group and encouraging them to find ways to join the others in play with them so they are not excluded while in group play. We do the same that @Christine Fitch Mooney suggests above: that there be set toys in their bedrooms that belong solely to them as individuals and encourage solitude in play too. #TakingIsNotSharing #SharingIsCaring lol 😉

  40. Aricha Drury says:

    We use this same method with our children and with child children in our child care program. One way they learn it is through modeling. If they ask me for something, I often tell them they can have a turn when I am done. If I want a turn with something they are using (for example, they are using the blue crayon I want, or a pair of scissors), I ask, “can I have that when you are done?”

    When we think about this playing out, in our imagination it might seem like a quick exchange: “Can I have that toy?” “No, I’m using it. You can have it when I’m done.” But more often than not, our kids ask for a turn as the opening to a longer discussion and negotiation. The one denied a turn might ask, “how long are you going to use it?” or they might explain why they want it or for how long (“I just need the scissors to cut this one thing, then I’ll give them right back”), try to work out a different arrangement (“I just want to try it once” or “can we take turns driving it down the ramp?”) or negotiate (“you can have my [special toy that you really wanted before] if I can have it”). Usually the kids come up with something that works for both of them.

  41. I feel like I have just stumbled upon the reason why many children (even my own) are so unhappy with sharing. I always thought it was ok for 8 years old to “share” toy with someone much younger because the young toddler cannot understand the concept of waiting fir your turn. “I was so wrong!”

  42. Amy says:

    While I understand the points being made, I can’t see this working in our house. My daughter is autistic and she will play with just one thing for hours, literally. (Somebody above said they’d never met a child who would spend an hour on a swing? Well, they should meet my daughter.) Much longer than another 4-year-old could be patient for, and also much longer than the class/session/school day would last. For us, using a timer or countdown is a good way of teaching her how long is socially acceptable to spend with a toy that is meant to be for everyone. But it’s also important to give her whole sessions of the day when she knows she won’t be interrupted. She’ll often spend whole afternoons playing alone in her room by choice, and I just have to promise to keep her brother out of the way!

  43. Brandy says:

    I agree with this concept most of the time. When inviting friends to play I believe it is important for children to understand that they should share with the guests, no different than offering someone something to eat or drink as a welcome to your home. But those of you who believ this is self-centered or poor parenting. I want half your paycheck and don’t want to have to do anything to get it! You’re thinking “no way!!” But why not? Why should your child share his belongings if you are not willing to do the same? Same concept, so you may want to reconsider your self centered reply to my request;)

  44. I loved this article and couldn’t agree more on the great tips. I’ve always said, “A child can’t learn to share until they have learned to own”. And this article respects that development of ownership…great work!

  45. Aaron says:

    Stop making deals with your kids… You are not their friend. You are the instructor. Spank your kids, when they act like a jerks. Hold them accountable for their actions. Especially GOOD actions. Interact with them. Tell your boss to blow it out his ass (not literally of course) for once and stay home from work 1 day (or more often if possible) a month and climb trees with them. Teach them how to play outside. Teach them to make amends when they make mistakes. and most of all, make a point to be home when they get home from school. Because they have had to put up with kids all day long, who have parents that make deals or bargain. When you make deals with your kids you are teaching them that they can make the rules up as they go. This results in bullying, a severe lack of respect for adults, and all around delinquency.

  46. Miss Karen says:

    I have used this technique for years in a preschool classroom. I find the only way children feel ready to share is when they know that their rights are protected. For this reason, I ask children to let others know when they are finished with their turn. I also protect personal belongings. I suggest to parents that they have their child put away special toys before a guest comes over. that eliminates the possibility of an argument.

  47. peter says:

    Sorry. I’ve raised five children to adulthood. Their teachers, and neighbors, and everyone else they meet are constantly amazed at how well-behaved and healthy they were as small children and are now. The “secret” is well-defined boundaries, extremely consistent and reasonable consequences for actions, and a lot of love. All of my children were required to share every toy and every chore they were capable of performing from a very young age. By the time they hit 1st grade, sharing and “chores” (cleaning up a room before leaving it) weren’t a challenge for them. It was simply a part of who they were. It is so sad to see so many of their peers who are lost and broken, desperately seeking something they cannot even define. Self-discipline is a cornerstone of self-respect. No one can “tell” you to respect yourself, it is something you have to earn for yourself from yourself. It is the essential character element missing from the majority of this generation.

  48. sh says:

    Every time I see this ‘idea’ on the net, can’t help but notice it is people with only one child, maybe two, who tend to like it.
    I did full time daycare for years with 5-6 kids. I grew up 1 of 4 kids. Being taught to share, often when I didn’t necessarily want to, did not backfire for me and has not for the kids I’ve cared for. One thing I did do that seemed to be key was establish the toys were mine. And I was sharing with them. With the exception of something that was special to them, and if they didn’t want to share it they didn’t have to but it needed to be put away until the kids went home. They got to choose. If they were fighting over one of ‘my’ toys and couldn’t come to an agreement on how to share, the toy went in a time out. If it was a high-demand toy. sometimes we did a timer. And sometimes I also said so-and-so wasn’t done with it so the other child needed to wait.
    It’s about balance.
    Lastly- I think the cell phone call, car, whatever comparison is pretty goofy. I’d like to think adults have a very different maturity level than a small child. But then again, in my family we do share cars and I wouldn’t hesitate to hand my phone over to someone who said they needed it.

  49. Jonathan says:

    I like that this post points out what can commonly become a problem in parenting: getting stuck in a certain rut or mental framework and potentially causing harm (however slight) at the same time as attempting to accomplish some good. For example, I can see how strictly enforcing a short time limit might cause bitterness and resentment in children.

    However, I do have to disagree with two things here, the first being that this is an issue of two extremes (strictly-enforced sharing versus letting the child try to do everything on his or her own), and the second being the overall approach of the article (strictly hands-off).

    What I try to go for is a balanced approach between the two extremes. Children are naturally inclined toward self-centered behavior, and letting a child decide when he or she is done simply reinforces this behavior (and children can and will easily ignore a parent’s words when there is no punishment involved). Children can very easily become brats when told that they can always have their own way and hold onto toys simply because they can or might use them at some point in the future. On the other side of things, being too strict and rigid without reason or just cause can create bitterness and a rebellious attitude.

    I try to let children know that if they want toys that other children are using, they have to wait, though they can ask nicely for the toy. I also let children know that sometimes it’s good to think of other children and share. On the other side of things, I make a rational decision about when a child has held onto a toy enough or especially when a child is simply holding onto a toy for the sake of holding onto it and enforce sharing at that point (a child doesn’t need a toy for the whole day, or even possibly for a whole hour). Rather than enforcing a strict time limit, I make a fair decision based on the specific toy and situation. At this point I gently let the child know that it’s good to share with other people (or that simply holding onto a toy isn’t nice) and facilitate handing the toy over.

    I find that this approach enforces all positive aspects of both sides without any negatives. What I see is children that don’t get overemotional, are fair, understand the importance of sharing, hand toys over just to be nice of their own free will, aren’t brats, know that holding onto toys isn’t nice, that are able to ask for what they want and understand that other children can say “no” (and that they can say “no, I’m using this right now”).

    On a side note, I also notice some amusing behavior: children trying to convince other children to give up a toy (“Can I have it now?” “Can I have it now?” “Would you rather use this?” “How about this?” “Will you trade?”, etc.), which I sometimes have to cut off eventually. 🙂

    I suppose that I should mention that I don’t agree with the cell phone analogy, as the nature of that example is completely different than that of the one discussed in the article. Toys are meant to be shared between children, even if owned by one. A cell phone is possessed for sole use by a single individual; no one else should be using someone else’s cell phone, and no one else has a right to it (and consequently borrowing someone else’s cell phone temporarily is also a completely different situation than sharing a toy among children). The example would be closer to applying if a family owned a single cell phone for use by the whole family, but even then it wouldn’t apply, because you still wouldn’t have a stranger walking up and randomly saying, “I can take this cell phone (toy), and so I will.” Toys are shared within the family or within a gathering of friends; strangers can’t expect to come up and simply say “Share” and take other people’s toys.”

    • Jean says:

      I use a balance of ways to teach my child and daycare children about sharing. For the most part, I talk with them about respect and caring for others and that all the toys in the playroom belong to the daycare and therefore are for everyone’s enjoyment. I do not allow children to just take what they want from another child. I teach them to ask if they can please have a turn, but that they other child does not have to say “yes”. If the child who has the toy says, “no”, or “not yet” then I tell the waiting child there are many toys available and they do not have to have what someone else is playing with at that time. They can find something else and when they see they toy is no longer being played with, they can have a turn or possibly ask again in a few minutes. If I have a child who is being very selfish with a toy, then I will step in and ask if they could please let the other child have a turn. I definitely do not force a child to give up a toy when another child is whining, crying, demanding, or taking the toy. I talk to the child who is throwing a fit and remind them they need to ask nicely and wait for a response and that the other person is allowed to say, “no”. If there is a limited amount of a type of toy, I will sometimes ask children to take turns based upon a time limit especially if we have limited free play time because of a meal time or other activity coming up.

      Now, with my youngest (10 yr old) son’s toys, he is told to keep them in his room if he doesn’t want daycare children playing with them. He is taught that if he brings it out in common areas or the playroom, it is fair game for the other children to use.

      Daycare children are asked not to bring toys from home because I have plenty of toys here and do not want to be responsible for their toys possibly getting lost, broken or stolen. (Exceptions are made for a special toy they may need for sleeping, but then it is kept on the shelf until naptime)

      When I take kids to public playgrounds, I ask them to please take turns on the slides and swings or whatever equipment there is available. If they are rude or selfish, I give them time out near me.

      I have 2 grown children and 1 grown stepson and did not have a lot of issues with teaching them about sharing. They are all pretty close and do a lot of things together.

      I believe it teaching children to say “please” and “thank you” and to ask politely if they want anything. The answer may not always be in their favor, but it is much more likely that they might get what they ask for when they are kind and loving.

      I do not have a lot of issues with my kids and even others who have observed how the children interact are impressed.

  50. Miranda says:

    We do this and it works very well. My daughter is actually very generous and shares naturally. But if she’s in the middle of playing with something, we do not require that she hand it over. We do have a rule that if a toy is in a communal area, it’s for everyone’s use. If something it “too special,” it goes away and is played with alone–“lording” a toy over others is a no go. Also, as soon as the toy is put down, it’s fair game for another user. We occasionally point out that another kid would like to use the toy and she generally then shares it with them as soon as she’s done, no big deal. Based on observations, she is a much better sharer than the kids that are coerced into giving something up that they are engaged with. Of course, you have to teach your kids to say politely that they are using something right now, but are happy to share it once they’re finished.

  51. Tanya says:

    When a child wants something another child has… we have always said… “Tell them you want a turn when they are done” and they find something else to do while they ‘wait’. It seems to work fine.

  52. Lisa says:

    I love this, I’m so glad you put this in such simple terms. I have 6 kids and it’s their responsibility to monitor their sharing, not me. I help them communicate “___ wants the doll when you’re done, OK?” and then if necessary “Hey, I noticed you’re not playing with the doll, so ____ is wanting her turn, OK?” When you treat kids with respect, they learn to treat others with respect. I can’t imagine how horrible I’d feel if I were knitting or using my laptop or painting or making a smoothie and someone came up and took away my activity in the name of “sharing.” Very uncool. The object – whatever it is- turns into a tool of manipulation and the relationship is damaged. Keep the relationships a priority and the object will never be more valuable than the time they spend together.

  53. victor says:

    great insight. i’m going to try this. any thoughts on sharing of limited consumables? (e.g. food, water balloons, paper, etc)

  54. NicoleP says:

    I do set timers when it comes to certain things, like using the playground swings. I HATE it when there is a line of kids waiting and a couple of kids will stay on the swings for an hour or more. I understand they might not be “done,” but letting them monopolize them is terrible and rude. I’ve taught the special needs kids I care for that they must wait their turn, but waiting that long is ridiculous. When my little ones do get a turn, we set a timer so that the turn has a definite end, and they transition well, often getting right back in line. I wish more parents/caregivers would do so. Teaching kids they can say no is fine, but it’s also important to teach them to be nice.

  55. AA says:

    My child shares all his toys and returns everything at stores and with friends. Is he going to grow up to be a push over? Yes, he is pretty much the only child who does it. I find it frustrating that patents don’t teach their children how to play with others.

  56. Jenny says:

    All those who make out we adults are great models of sharing……how many times do your children want to go on your computer, play on your phone etc and you don’t let them? Confusing huh…you might have good reasons for not letting them….like its bad for them but its very confusing for them. So many things they want but adults tell them they can’t have!

  57. Vanessa says:

    I love this and use it with my 3 year old. We have done it for so long that now he can regulate his own time – I say “John wants a turn – how long will you be?” (if they need my support). My son usually suggests 6 minutes. He has no idea what that actually means but that doesn’t matter. He often hands the thing over when ready and it’s usually within 1 minute. I think some people can be very threatened by having children self regulate as if they think adult authority is paramount.

  58. paulette says:

    children follow by example, selfish parents, selfish children.

  59. Patricia Cendejas says:

    I would like to know where can I buy the book, I live in Mexico, but I have a friend that will be in the States and he will bring it back to me. Thank you !!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      You can buy it on Amazon, so you should be able to get it in Mexico yourself. Otherwise, any bookstore should be able to order it for you. More info about book sales here – Thanks for your interest, Patricia! Happy reading.

  60. Amylynn says:

    Oh this make so much sense. I always feel awkward when I don’t FORCE my child to give their toy to a playmate when they are actively playing with it. And I feel really awkward when a friend forces their child to give mine a turn (because mine is crying or complaining). That makes me feel as if the negative behavior is being rewarded. Love this take on sharing!

  61. Kelly says:

    I work in daycare and I usually use this method. I have used the timer method and I found that about half of the time the children would be finished with the toy and hand it over before the time was up.

  62. George Jones says:

    I’m sorry, but I think this is B.S. MOST parents(YES, I SAID MOST. DON’T MISTAKE IT FOR ALL) now a days don’t really care what their kids do. They spoil them, drug them, push them out the door, don’t really try to teach them responsibility, and don’t disapline them. Kids now have it sooo easy, they get away with everything. “Forcing” them to share teaches them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Kids need to learn that you’re the parent, the boss, and what you say goes. End of story. People have been forced to share for eons, nobody has complained about it before. If you don’t give them a reality check, they will go through life with blinders on. I’m really so tired of this Tom-Foolery, it’s so painful to see how humans as a whole have become so weak and fragile. We’re so afraid of hurting others feelings, worried if of childern like us or not. It doesn’t matter. If you can’t handle being a parent and what’s required of you to do so, then you shouldn’t have had kids. Don’t be scared to spank you child once in a while. Animals correct their offspring, we should to. We really are no different then they are. Don’t “force” your kids to share. Whatever…

  63. nicole says:

    When baby #2 was in progress we stopped saying “your puzzle” instead “the puzzle”… my girls do not share in the way of interruption either. But my question is, what about when visiting another kid’s house and the toy does belong to her? That is always so awkward for me.

    • Tani Newton says:

      I strongly agree with this post. When one of my children takes something that is someone else’s, I make them give it back and ask for it. Occasionally it doesn’t go well, but usually it results in a very sweet little scene. When my children are fighting over a toy, I tell them very firmly to talk to each other and agree about how to share or take turns. If they absolutely can’t or won’t agree, after a warning, I take it away from both of them – but I’ve only had to do this a few times ever! By the way, I have five children. Sorry, negative commenters, but forcing children to give up their property and calling it “sharing” is teaching them communism.

  64. Susan says:

    Eh, this is a classic case of excluding the middle. One choice: force a kid to give in to another’s selfish instant demand. The other choice: flat out selfish refusal. Neither of these is the correct way for an adult to act. An adult says, “Sure, you can use my cell phone if you need it. If possible, I will cut my call short to help you out.” It takes a lot of time and energy to teach a kid to act this way. It won’t be done in an instant. But you can do it by suggesting that he consider his friend’s feelings. The Golden Rule here is also the Golden Mean.

  65. rob says:

    You people are idiots. Once again you see advice as a threat. Its just an idea to use or not. Something to think on get over your egos.

  66. Edward says:

    I’ve enjoyed the article and the many posts. One post in particular about children obeying the parental command to share as a manipulative tactic merely to gain praise made me think of a wonderful short-story from Hector Hugh Munro, “The Storyteller.”—Story-Teller

  67. Natasha says:

    Love your article, Heather! I would like some advice though. I have a baby on the way (due February), a 16 month old son and a 6 year old step daughter. Sharing has become an issue of contention in our house. My husband and I are so confused as to what we should be encouraging and discouraging. Since my husband separated with his ex when their daughter was one, he has seen his daughter four nights a fortnight. This was changed to four nights a fortnight and half of all school holidays when his daughter started school. When she is not with us, she lives with her mum and in the past year this has changed to include her mum’s new bf and his 15 and 17 yr old too. My point is that for most of her life she has been completely unaccustomed to sharing. She has no respect for her things here because she knows if they break her mum will buy her more. Recently she has started taking things from here to her mums and not returning them. This is okay with us because we believe she is old enough to understand that her things are no longer here because she has them to her mums, which she does. But then she throws a tantrum because she doesn’t know where they are at her mums. I feel like I am turning into an evil stepmum (which I don’t want to be. I do love her and appreciate that much of who she is is because she doesn’t no any different) BUT at the same time there is no way I want my son to end up as selfish and disrespectful as she is. I also would like him to have a lot more resilience than her so he doesn’t feel the need to throw a tantrum every time he doesn’t get his way. Anyways, where our issue lies is with our sons toys. We live in a split level house and he is unable to manoeuvre toys between levels so many of his toys live in the lounge. For the greater part of a fortnight, these toys are his and when they aren’t he is playing with his friends or cousins who are his age and sharing is not an issue as they ‘play together’ extremely well. When my husbands daughter is here, she likes to play with his toys – I have no problem with this…. But, when our son wants to join in, she wants no part of it and throws a tantrum. If we tell our son he has to wait, he throws a tantrum. What should we be saying? We feel like we can’t say she has to play with her toys because that isn’t what families should be about but I feel like this is where we are headed :s what do you think? Any feedback, from anyone would be helpful. I am a positive person and I try so hard to think that with time our children will get along no worries but I am getting really worn down with the jealousy and the selfishness and jealousy my step daughter is bringing into our house and only seeing her four nights a fortnight makes it hard to change anything. Everything (even things like you have a wash EVERY night in our house, which has been a rule since I’ve known my husband – she was 2.5yrs) get forgotten between each visit. *sigh*

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      It can be hard for kids who bounce back and forth. Focus on the feelings underneath her actions. She may be craving attention, or reassurance of unconditional love, she may be worried about her position in the family with new little ones on the way. As long as the toy won’t get damaged by either child, try letting the child who is holding the toy keep using it until h/she is done. “Ownership” is more about control (who’s using it, who’s setting the rules) than about whose toy is whose.

      Remember kids need to “own” before they can share.

  68. I like two points you make here, bravo! One is the point about finding meaningful ways to help children learn self regulation, and, as other readers have also noted, it is right in line with a core tenant of Montessori pedagogy (a practice that’s been used successfully for a century and counting). The key to making this work, of course, is ensuring that all children involved are attending to their feelings in the way you intend: that the one with the power (um, I mean, toy) is aware of what you mean by “done” and isn’t, instead, trying to provoke the other child (which is a situation in which the method could backfire, or have unintended consequences) and where the child who is waiting, is indeed engaging in self regulation in a meaningful way, by finding another way to occupy their time while waiting. Perhaps that’s what some of the readers here have missed – the fact that this approach is not completely hands-off, in that it still requires some direction from a caregiver on how to do it right?

    The other point that I appreciate here is the one about encouraging the behavior to reflect a genuine feeling the child has, rather than an adult imposed one. In similar vein, I’ve written about this subtle but important perspective in the context of inclusion and playing more generally (, specifically, when adults tell children that everyone in their classroom is their friend simply because they all share the same space together. Doing this doesn’t teach meaningful lessons about friendship. Rather, it can teach young children that “friends” are sometimes nice, and sometimes mean, sometimes considerate, other-times, thoughtful. Even young children can see through this, or at the very least be confused by it. As adults, we recognize that we aren’t friends with everyone we work with, but we do (generally speaking) act decently around our co-workers. I think we owe it to children to teach them the same. Why not call everyone classmates, discuss what it means to be a good friend, and help children understand how to get along with others, whether they are in fact close friends or not? Author Vivan Paley writes about this too, and her book “You can’t say you can’t play” is a wonderful read! Perhaps other readers here would enjoy it too.

  69. Anj says:

    Funny that no one has yet talked about their own experiences!!
    I am the 5th of 7, two older step-siblings (boy and girl), two older sisters and two younger brothers (one step, one half) and ALWAYS had to share.
    I grew up fairly normal, receiving hand-me-downs and old toys etc.
    being the youngest girl, I got to keep a lot of it too. Whenever my older siblings passed something along to me, I was asked – not forced – to pass something along to my brothers too. And it didn’t stop there. Our parents routinely asked us to donate to Goodwill. Clothes, socks, toys, etc.
    I was ‘forced’ to share. Not by parents, regular or otherwise.
    By teachers and educators.
    My teachers would take things and give them to others. It wasn’t my parents but other adults who played a role in my education.
    Teachers snatching ”notes’ when you’re still writing them,
    Teachers snatching cell phones (granted you shouldn’t have them)
    Teachers too play a huge role in children’s development.

    Now, I am 22 and I can honestly admit that I am a doormat.
    I let people borrow stuff but if they keep it too long, I don’t ask for it. I know some subconscious part of my brain isn’t working right that I can’t just ask a friend for a DVD he’s had for a year.
    But it’s tricky.
    It’s like when people ask me for favors, I’ll do it. Even if I feel bad about it.
    But it’s too late to change now. People who know me, see me as ‘nice’.
    I’m really not. I’m a pushover.
    And I’ve had people take advantage of that fact.

    ‘Oh I borrowed your notebook this week and we have a big test? Sorry I forgot your book at home!’
    Things like this may be accidents or they might be controlling, either way, it happens a lot more to people of a certain nature.

    I’d love to see a study on this comparing homeschooled children to those in a regular school setting.

    • Stephanie says:

      It’d never too late to change! You are only 22 and though you may feel like it’s hard to change, given time and determination you can if you WANT. If you don’t want to change then don’t! It’s all your chhoice. I used to have a hard time saying ‘No’ as well, but I started by working my way up. And I found that when I was younger I would “care” a lot more of what people thought of me. Now I’m 30 and with two little kids (4 and 13 months) I can say no, mean it, say it nicely and leave it at that. If someone is offended now, it’s because they wanted it and expected me to give it to them, regardless. Those people are selfish a-holes. If someone asked to borrow something or to borrow your time, if they are good people they will understand and respect your “no.” maybe you don’t feel enough respect to yourself when you can’t say ‘no,’ so that may encourage others to disrespect you. Gaining some confidence and respecting yourself will change how others treat you, and it takes little steps – telling yourself ‘No’ when you feel you ‘need’ to say yes. Giving yourself a chance to say ‘no’, and then giving yourself the chance to change your no into a yes. Change is a choice, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen little by little, day by day.

  70. Stephanie says:

    Does anyone have advice for when the (4 y/o) child says he doesn’t want to let anyone have a turn after because it’s a “special” toy? I will be trying this anyway, with the hopes of it helping. I sometimes ask my 4 year old “how many minutes do you need?” he usually says “5 minutes!” and sometimes will allow someone else a turn when his 5 minutes are done. Sometimes he needs another 5 minutes! Haha!

    • Carmela says:

      I think children should be allowed one or two “special toys” so something they care deeply about is not ruined by others. The smarter ones (or maybe more manipulative is a better term) will try to claim that all of their toys are “special”…. then they have to decide on just one or two. When my son and his cousins were little, we just put the “special” toy away during group playtime. There is no point in having a toy out that will not be shared.

  71. Carmela says:

    I think the THEORY of this is admirable. Unfortunately I have seen the what happens when children whose parents left it up to their nature to share “when they want” (or to be completely selfish) start living adult lives. Not always… but usually (I could give specific examples but it would only result in hurt feelings) the adult remains as self-involved, inconsiderate and impulsive as they were when they were a small child. Trust me when I say it isn’t cute on a 20+ year old and even more unsavory when that person becomes a spouse/parent.

    Parenting is different for each child and has to be flexible enough to adapt to what best suits the child’s personality and disposition while still implementing firm boundaries. If you have a child who has the natural disposition of being selfish and disconnected from how their behavior impacts those around them… you will have to “force” them to share if they are to become considerate and loving spouses/parents and reasonable employees. If your child is highly sensitive and naturally empathetic… you may only need to remind them that sharing is good and let them determine when/how to share. Of course, there should be some shared items/activities that have pre-determined rules on total time allowed to play (example, TV time or video games, a unique yard toy, etc.) in the interest of fairness. This is why parenting is the hardest job on earth! You have to be dialed into your child every day and understand what makes them tick… and it is a constant balancing act.

    Truly loving your child means training them to be respectable, respectful, independent thinking, fully functioning adults. No rules and total self involvement results in adult sociopaths.

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  74. robinakagoatmom says:

    I love my friends but I don’t share everything with them but we expect this of our children. I always asked my daughter prior to play dates if there was anything special that she did not want to share while there friend was visiting. It changed, maybe a recent gift from a Grandparent, her china tea set when a rough housing friend came and such. We put the item out of sight and never had many sharing issues.

  75. Kate says:

    One thing I loved about the Montessori system was when a child was working with something it was “their job” – some other child couldnt just come up and take over or knock it down or whatever. It gave the child working on something the space and confidence to finish their (very important) project and it gave the other child the opportunity to look around and see the multitude of different things on offer and choose something else. Being assertive is a skill I wish I had learned more and one I will definitely try and give my kids. It also makes you value yourself and others by not letting people walk over you and always giving in to the other person. It also makes you wait for things confidently when they aren’t forthcoming straight away and understand that the other person has a right to finish what they have started.

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  78. Emily says:

    Hey Heather,

    What a great piece. I featured it on my weekly news round up about alternative education and parenting. You can see it here:



  79. ALC says:

    I was an only child, and when I entered preschool I learned that others constantly wanted to take things away from me. I wasn’t the type of child to approach a peer and ask for what they had. I would go off and find my own book/toy/item to play with. Another child would inexplicably come and ask for it, and teachers and monitors would constantly force it to be given up, regardless of how long I’d had possession of it or that I had gotten it on my own. Then instead of playing with me after I was forced the share the item, my peer would take control of it and run off with it, and I was alone again.

    This is the origin of hoarding. “If no one knows I have this, then no one can take it from me.” I don’t think this is about selfishness, it’s about feeling ganged up on, and that the system rewards people who aren’t creative or driven enough to find their own source of amusement. It made me feel very lonely and powerless as a child. Peers approached me not because they liked me, but because they liked what I had and knew they could get it by citing “share with me!” I learned that I didn’t like interacting with others very much because it made me vulnerable. I felt like there was no mutual respect, therefore no trust.

    This has been a general theme in my life, of people wanting to take things away from me for no other reason than to exert power, and it is quite upsetting. Luckily, I’ve learned how to avoid these things by being relatively solitary and being very careful who I let into my life and the general choices I make. But in my daily life as an adult and my interactions with strangers, I am amazed with the fact that full-grown members of society are unable to wait their turn. Grocery stores, the pharmacist, traffic, etc. Waiting your turn is one of the most basic and fundamental forms of politeness and courtesy I can think of, and forced sharing goes directly against it. Of COURSE people grow into adults who refuse to wait. It all makes so much sense.

    This was a really good article, thanks for writing it.

  80. Gena Ulmer says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’ll point out though that adults are also forced to share…it’s called taxes.

    • Holly says:

      forcing someone else to do something – anything at all- is tyranny.. no matter how you slice it.

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  82. Farrah says:

    This may work at home when it is between a limited number of children, but in a classroom this is hard to instil. There may only be enough toys for everyone to play together; if all the toys are taken and there are a few children without anything to play with, the teacher would be wrong to let them sit without a toy while everyone else is engaged in playing. In this situation, the teacher has to show that the children are unfairly left without a toy and that someone should volunteer to share. Whoever volunteers gets praised and hopefully this praise encourages kids to be the one who volunteers to share next time.

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  85. jusing says:

    i would say there is no one size fits all way of parenting. every kid has their own mindset and behaviour. as parents, they are to teach them to respond accordingly. if the kid just got hold of the toy for 5 minutes, asking them to give it up is of course not very correct. if they have been hogging the toy for an hour, maybe we can encourage them to share or exchange the toy and spend time letting their creativity bloom together. as thinking adults, we have to set the benchmark and balance as a guideline for the kids to learn n follow.

  86. RSN says:

    I absolutely love that this theory is out in the open. Since my daughter was born I have struggled with the ‘sharing’ issue, not wanting to undermine her importance by making her give something away. It inevitably ends up with one person in the party feeling bad in one way or another! With more parents learning that ‘sharing’ is not always the right thing to do we might eventually avoid any sadness :). I am curious, though, about how to handle my child when a friend is over and wants to sit on her favourite chair or play with her favourite toy?

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      It is more about the adults – as you say “with more parents learning…”

      If something is very special, talk about it ahead of time and maybe tuck it away before the friend comes over. It’s also OK to tell the visiting child “That toy is special to Maddie.” Most kids totally understand about special items (a favorite duck, blankie, etc.) The trick here is everything can’t be special. You can also reassure your own child. “Hannah is using the blocks, but she won’t take them home with her. These blocks stay at our house.” Kids get confused and worried about this all the time – ‘will I ever see this again if she touches it?’

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  88. Prasanna says:

    Consider this scenario: My 4 yrd old is ready to share his toys (cycle, ball) with other kids, but he being the younger among the lot, another elder kid takes advantage and wants to always ride my son’s bike while not wanting to share his with my son. My son gets disappointed that the other doesn’t share and I interfere to make the other kid share to my son. Which makes the other kid unhappy and I suspect he has now developed an aversion towards my son because of my interference. I also advice my son not to share his things with kids who doesn’t know sharing, so he doesn’t have to be all generous and let others take advantage of him. This also upsets the other kid because he doesn;t want to share and only play with others’ things. Elder kids’ parents are nowhere in the picture as he handles himself quite well. Any advice on what I should change in my approach so my son learns to handle and grow up with assertiveness.

  89. Laura says:

    Timers can work really well with shared items in a group setting – particay those that are new and one or two children will take for hours. Without it can become a squabble over who grabs it first! I found the children themselves chose to get the timers to share between themselves 🙂

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  92. Emily says:

    Hi I’d love some thoughts from the community about this issue, I am sorry if its been disdcussed hard to get through two years of discussion. I have been trying this with my 3.5 year old son for a long time. He has a tendancy to snatch from others and we are working on developing his impulse control and ask him to return the toy and ask the other child if he can have it when they are done. With prompting he will usually do this. I reassure the other child they can play with it as long as they want and then try and help him find something to do while he waits. The trouble I am running into is that he wages a war of attrition on the other child. Standing really close mopping and repeatedly saying “can I have it when you are done? or Are you done yet?” It can be hard to move him away if it is a play date although I do that and let him know that badgering is not ok. It is frustrating. I also don’t always see the part where he gives it willningly when he is done when the situation is reveresed. In fact often when he is done he just abandons the toy, when I remind him that so and so was waiting he grabs it defensively again and says he is still playing even if he had abandoned it and was on to something else. Am I missing something? All part of the learning process?? Help.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Sounds as if he is truly benefitting from all you are doing, but it’s going to take time and practice. Good for you protecting the child playing. “It’s too hard for you to wait right here, I’m going to help you move your body away.” If the reminding is triggering a defensive reaction, skip that part for now. Some kids have a deep need for control.

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  97. Susan Z says:

    This may work in an unlimited play time arena but it doesn’t work otherwise. I supervise a playground and the kids only have 20 minutes. The same speedsters make it to the swings first every time and would swing for the entire period if we didn’t make them “share”. There is also a lesson to be learned from having to give up something we enjoy so that others, who also enjoy it, may take a turn.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love your word “speedsters” and can picture the scene you describe. In a case like this where time to play is hugely limited by schedules, kids can help problem-solve the situation. Get the group to talk about it. Depending on the ages, it can be done with a puppet show (one puppet always races fast) or just discussion. Children are huge advocates of what’s “Fair” and often come up with good solutions to problems of shared resources. Their solutions may look different than an adult solution, but often if kids have a hand in the decision making they feel it’s fair and it works. Good luck!