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The Only Solution You Need When Kids Won't Share

Two children looking at a toy and one grabbing for it

As a parent, you're likely familiar with those cries during playtime: 'That's mine! Give it back!’ Ever wondered why sharing sometimes seems challenging for kids? It's not because they don't know how to share but their emotions sometimes create hurdles.


In this article, we'll delve into why kids sometimes struggle with sharing, particularly in their early years, underscoring that they inherently know how to share. We'll emphasize the significance of navigating their emotions and provide smart strategies to make sharing a smoother experience.

Why Sharing Can Be Tricky for Your Little Ones

As a parent, we've all been through those moments when our kids get super attached to a toy and sharing becomes a bit of a challenge. Ever wondered why? Let's look deeper into why sharing can be tough for your little ones and how we can make it a bit smoother for them.

1. Big Feelings

You know how kids are – when they want something, it's like the most important thing in the world. It's not just about the toy; it's about their intense emotions. Imagine your child really, really wanting that yellow ball because, to them, it's the happiness ball.

2. Need for Connection

However, sharing becomes feasible for kids when they feel emotionally close to someone. A strong bond and love make them less fixated on possessing a specific toy. They can patiently wait for their turn because, at that moment, they already have something even more valuable – a profound connection with you.

3. Core Needs

Beyond toys, kids have essential needs like daily moments to connect, warmth, respect, playtime, affection, laughter, opportunities to express feelings, information about their surroundings, and sensible limits. Consider these needs as the emotional fuel that propels their well-being.

4. Feeling Disconnected

Amidst our busy lives, it's easy to overlook those playful interactions with our kids. When the connection falters, sharing becomes an uphill battle. Clinging to a particular toy symbolizes something more profound – a longing for connection with you.

5. Crying for Connection

Kids may not explicitly request closeness, but their actions communicate loudly. When they desire what others have or insist on something forbidden, it's their way of signaling, "I need your help to reconnect.”Like when your child desperately wants the blue umbrella another kid is playing with – it's more than just the umbrella; it's a cry for connection.


Understanding why sharing is a bit tricky for kids helps us respond with empathy. By being there for them, listening to their big feelings, and offering the emotional connection they need, we can gradually pave the way for a more harmonious sharing experience for our little ones.


Now, after discussing why sharing might sometimes be difficult for kids, Let's explore why setting equal playtime doesn't always click with kids:

Why Equal Playtime Doesn't Always Work for Kids

When two kids both want the same toy and are feeling happy and relaxed, they can share. They figure out something fun to do while waiting for their turn. Even little ones can manage this without needing to talk about turns. One takes the toy, the other thinks about it and then moves on to something else that makes them happy. Older kids can even figure out how to share by talking and feel proud of themselves for doing it.


However, if a child is feeling upset or tense, taking turns isn't their first choice. They want that toy right away! If another child also wants it but is feeling happy, they might find something else to do for a while. Sharing problems usually happen when both kids are upset because they lose their connection or sense of being close.

Downsides of Adult-Enforced Equality

Parents may think that making things equal by enforcing turns is a quick fix, but it can make them enforcers instead of connectors. This approach might not really address the child’s deeper need for connection. Simply solving the issue at the moment doesn't fully meet the child's need to feel close or the child may still need help and sharing challenges may persist.


When adults insist on turns, the child who finally gets their turn might defend the toy too much, losing the joy of having it. They might even boast about having it, upsetting the other kids. Another problem is that, during these disputes, adults might start seeing their children as immature. But you know what? Sharing is a big thing and sometimes it is not even easy for grown-ups either, as they might try to negotiate turns between kids one moment and argue with a partner over household tasks the next.

Shift of Focus: From Equality to Connection

The most compelling reason not to always enforce turns is that it shifts the focus to making things equal for each child instead of connecting with them. When children don't feel connected to adults or each other, their arguments continue, testing the patience of everyone involved. No amount of enforcement helps them relax and work things out with tolerance and goodwill.


Moreover, setting up and monitoring turns can be useful in public places to avoid tantrums, when exhaustion hinders listening to feelings, or when dealing with a large group of kids. However, in everyday situations, focusing on connecting with each child proves more effective than enforcing equal playtime.

parents helping their children play well together with toys on the floor

Being There When They Need You: The "I'll Be with You While You Wait" Approach

You've likely witnessed those moments when your child wants something so much that it feels like the world revolves around that particular toy or thing, you see, it's not just about the thing; it's about their big feelings. The "I'll Be with You While You Wait" policy recognizes that instead of simply enforcing turns or making things equal, being there for your child during those moments of upset can make a significant difference.

1. Connection Beats Enforcement

Rather than focusing on strict rules and timing, this approach acknowledges that children, in those intense moments, need more than just getting their turn. It's about being a companion during their upset, creating a connection that goes beyond equal playtime.

2. Releasing Deep Feelings

Kids sometimes need a good cry or a tantrum to let go of the emotions that build up when they can't have what they want. The "I'll Be with You While You Wait" policy allows them the space and support to release those deep feelings, making room for a sense of relief and emotional balance.

3. Shifting from Upset to Connection

Instead of focusing on the possession of a specific item, the emphasis is on the child and their emotions. By being there for them during the upset, parents or caregivers help the child shift from a state of tension to a sense of connection, making sharing a more natural outcome.

4. Strengthening the Parent-Child Bond

The "I'll Be with You While You Wait" approach reinforces the bond between parent and child.  It shows your child that, no matter what they want or if conflicts arise, you're always there to support, listen, and comfort them during those emotional moments.


When your child really wants something but can't have it, staying close during their tears or tantrums cements this connection. Your constant presence teaches them that your love remains steadfast, even when things get tough.


Therefore, this policy recognizes that children need more than just a turn with a toy; they need understanding, support, and a trusted adult to be there while they navigate the sea of their big feelings. It's not just about waiting for a specific item; it's about waiting together through the waves of emotions.

Trusting Children's Natural Goodwill

Besides the "I'll Be with You While You Wait" approach, there's another concept - “long-term fairness” that believes in children's innate goodwill. It goes beyond immediate solutions, placing trust in children's natural sense of fairness and goodness over time.


‘Trusting Children's Innate Goodness’ contributes to building emotional security. Children feel secure knowing they'll have a turn and that others will patiently wait for theirs. This approach centers on creating a positive and secure environment. The strategy encourages genuine generosity by trusting children to share willingly. When children feel respected and trusted, they are more likely to exhibit true generosity, offering turns and sharing with their peers.


Unlike short-term fixes that enforce equal time, Long-term Fairness focuses on establishing a lasting sense of fairness and goodwill. It aims to cultivate an environment where children choose to be fair and generous naturally.

two boys playing with toys, one is smiling

Example of Long-term Fairness: The Sharing Swing


To understand this better, Imagine a swing in the neighborhood park that all the kids love. Every day, there's a bit of excitement and tension as kids gather around, hoping for a turn.


Parents could enforce strict rules, ensuring each child gets an equal amount of time on the swing each day. This might seem fair in the short run, but it doesn't necessarily address the deeper feelings or build a lasting sense of fairness.


Now, consider a long-term fairness approach. Parents trust that given time, the kids will figure out a way to share the swing among themselves. They let the children navigate the situation, encouraging communication and empathy.


Parents play a crucial role by being present, observing, and offering support when conflicts arise. Instead of micromanaging each turn, they express confidence in the kids' ability to work things out. They might say, "I trust you all to find a fair way to enjoy the swing together."


Over time, the kids, with occasional guidance from parents, establish a system. They may decide on a rotation or find creative ways to include everyone. This not only ensures each child gets a turn but also fosters a sense of goodwill. Kids learn to share not because they have to but because they've developed a genuine understanding of fairness.


In this way, long-term fairness goes beyond immediate equal division, focusing on building a sustainable sense of fairness and cooperation among children.

Positive Changes Over Time

When we listen to children's feelings, some wonderful changes start to happen over time. It's like planting seeds of understanding and empathy that slowly blossom into positive outcomes.


Some of these positive outcomes include:

1. Improved Sharing Skills

Children become better at sharing as they learn to express their feelings and understand others. The seeds of cooperation and consideration grow, making sharing a more natural and joyful experience.

2. Reduced Defensiveness and Aggression

As children feel heard and understood, they become less defensive and aggressive. The need to fiercely protect their toys diminishes as they find security in emotional connection.

3. Increased Laughter

Laughter becomes more frequent as the atmosphere lightens with shared understanding. Playtime becomes filled with joy, and children find humor in their social interactions.

4. Decreased Conflict

Fighting less becomes a noticeable outcome of cultivating a listening and empathetic environment. The roots of conflict loosen as children build stronger connections and navigate shared spaces peacefully.


This transformation isn't instant, but by consistently listening to their feelings, we nurture a positive evolution in children's behavior and emotional well-being.

Understanding How Parents Can Support Child’s Core Needs

So, parents, now you know that your role in nurturing your child's growth goes beyond the basics. Understanding and actively participating in meeting your child's core needs can make a significant impact on their emotional well-being and sharing skills. Let's delve into the essential aspects of supporting your child's emotional development.

1. Daily Moments of Connection

Make it a priority to create daily opportunities for genuine connection with your child. Whether through shared activities, quality time, or simply being present, these moments build a strong bond that contributes to their overall well-being.

2. Emotional Warmth and Welcome

Your child thrives in an environment filled with emotional warmth and a welcoming atmosphere. Feeling loved and accepted empowers them to face challenges with confidence and resilience.

3. Respect for Intelligence

Acknowledge and respect your child's intelligence. This recognition not only boosts their self-esteem but also encourages thoughtful engagement with the world around them.

4. Time for Play

Recognize the significance of playtime or ‘Special time’ specifically in your child's emotional development. Beyond the joy it brings, play fosters creativity, social skills, and a positive outlook on life.

5. Affection and Laughter

Express your love through affectionate gestures and shared moments of laughter. These elements contribute significantly to creating a positive and emotionally enriching environment.

6. Opportunities to Express Feelings

Children need avenues to express their feelings – be it through laughter, tears, or conversations. As a supportive adult, listening without judgment helps them navigate the complexities of their emotions.

7. Information about the World

Keep your child informed about the world around them. This knowledge provides a sense of understanding, reducing uncertainties and helping them navigate life with confidence.

8. Limits Enforced with Care

Setting reasonable limits is crucial for safety and respect. Enforce these limits with care, avoiding violence, to create a secure environment where your child can thrive.

dad watching boy build a block tower

Why Your Role Matters in Sharing Skills?

Beyond meeting core needs, parental support plays a vital role in developing the child's sharing skills. Staying close during moments of tension, holding sensible limits, and listening to their feelings are not just about sharing toys; they're about fostering a sense of connection, emotional well-being, and resilience in your children.

Acknowledging & Praising Sharing Behaviour

Recognizing and praising a child's sharing efforts is another powerful way to reinforce positive behavior. For instance, if your child willingly shares a favorite snack with a sibling, you can say, "That was such a generous thing to do! Sharing your snack shows kindness." By specifically acknowledging the act of sharing and expressing appreciation, you instill the idea that sharing is not just commendable but also a source of pride and connection.

Wrapping Up

Teaching kids to share is like a long race, not a quick one. It might take some time, but if you keep encouraging them, showing them how to share, and being patient, your child will get better at it! Think of it as helping them take small steps to become really good at sharing. So, keep going with your positive attitude, be a good example, and enjoy watching your child become an awesome sharer in this journey of learning and growing!


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