Only children: how can they learn to share?

Only children: how can they learn to share?

Sharing doesn’t come naturally to children. They want everything to themselves – toys, treats, your time and attention.

Children with siblings usually learn to share through a process of bickering and negotiation with their brothers and sisters. But for only children – who’ve never had to share the last slice of cake with anyone – it can be a harder lesson. Little wonder then, that many have a reputation for being selfish and spoilt.

However, with guidance, and by setting a good example, you can encourage your only child to share.

How you can help

Children sharingMake sure she spends lots of time with other children. Invite her friends for tea, and join playgroups and nurseries to reinforce social skills.

Give her strategies to help her share. If another child wants to play with a toy she’s using, it’s unreasonable to expect her to drop it straightaway. Encourage her to offer an alternative or take it in turns.

Don’t force her to share her really precious things – put them out of sight when friends visit.

Praise good sharing, both from your child and when you spot it in others.

Look for opportunities to share with her and talk about it positively: ‘Isn’t it nice that we’re sharing this biscuit.’

Enjoy role play. Have a dolls’ tea party and point out examples of good sharing from the toys. (‘Look, Teddy’s sharing his cup and saucer.’)

Children love to copy, so lead by example and demonstrate good sharing behaviour with your partner and other adults. (‘You can have the last sandwich.’)

Don’t let her monopolise family life – whether it’s choosing what music to listen to in the car, which TV programme to watch or which board game to play, make sure that you and your partner have a chance to choose, too.

Encourage her to consider others’ feelings: ‘How do you think Izzie feels now that you won’t let her use her crayons? How would you feel?

Have your say

Have you struggled to encourage your only child to share? Pass on your tips to other parents.

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