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Strategies to Promote Sharing and Taking Turns

If you have a young child, you have probably realized that your child will go through phases from time to time. For example, your child has probably had a “mine” phase where he or she essentially marks everything as belonging to him or her. It can be a challenge to get children to correctly interpret that items are meant to be shared. This is an abstract concept that children can have trouble learning. Sometimes, children think sharing means that “if I want it the other kid has to give it to me.” 

Children pillow fighting

If you are a frustrated parent who is having trouble addressing these behaviors, you are far from the only parent grappling with this challenge. The reality is that this is a very normal problem for children to have. Before kids head to Kindergarten, they need to understand the concept of sharing and taking turns, even if they don’t do it all the time. There are a few strategies that parents can follow to help their kids learn about this important concept.

Why Children Might Struggle Sharing

If your child is having trouble sharing and taking turns, there are a few reasons why. For example, some children might be used to having adults solve their problems for them. They are simply used to being told what to do. In this situation, try encouraging your child to be more independent. This will help him or her develop the problem-solving skills that are necessary for learning and discovering for himself or herself.

In other cases, children might simply be used to adults monitoring their behavior closely. Sometimes, parents are watching over their kids so closely so that might not feel any degree of autonomy at all. Sharing with a peer spontaneously does require some degree of autonomy, so consider taking a step back.

Finally, some children have trouble showing empathy for others (as in sharing) if they aren’t used to feeling empathy at home. Therefore, it is important to provide your child with independence while still letting him or her know that you love your child and care about him or her.

These are a few possible reasons why kids might have trouble sharing. Consider these reasons as you mold your child’s behavior appropriately.

Teaching Children to Share and Take Turns

If you are looking for strategies that will help you teach your child how to share or take turns, there are a few easy tips that you can follow.

First, think about reading books that have characters in them who share and take turns. For example, point out when characters share and when they do not. Then, point out how the emotions of the characters fluctuate between happiness, sadness, and anger as you go through the story. Quiz your child on how the story can be improved to make everyone happy (such as sharing). This will help your child understand the importance of sharing and taking turns.

Children sharing

Then, when your child demonstrates proper behavior, remember positive reinforcement. You might not think that your child should be rewarded for doing something that should be expected; however, at the age of three and four, kids want to please their parents. Therefore, praise them when they share or take turns. This will go a long way toward ingraining this behavior. 

If you are looking for a more concrete way to enforce sharing, consider using an egg timer. An egg timer is important because the ticking noise will give the child a concrete measure for the passage of time. If you don’t have an egg timer, try using an hourglass instead. The most important part is for children to take an abstract concept, such as time, and make it concrete. This will teach children that it is important to share with others. You can even use a dry erase marker with a board to count the turns as they rotate.

If you have multiple children at home and are trying to find a way to get them all to share and take turns, consider creating a waiting list for popular items. Video games are a common area of conflict, if your child is old enough to play them. Come up with a waiting list of children who want to use the item. Then, use checkmarks as their turns go by. Eventually, kids are going to get tired of having adults run the show and may start to share on their own. This is the goal.

Finally, make sure to be a role model for your child. If your child is sharing but you aren’t, then your child is going to think that he or she is being punished in some way. Even though this might sound obvious, it is easy for adults to get caught up in everything they have to do during the course of the day and they might end up fighting over something silly. Do not model poor behavior and certainly don’t model this to your child. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child. Most children want to be like their parents. If you model good behavior, your child will follow.

How Should I Intervene?

The point of teaching children how to take turns is that adults no longer have to run the show. At the same time, you need to know when you should intervene. If you see that one child is continually being left out or that one child is dominating, then you should step in. This is particularly true if you see emotions starting to get out of hand. 

When you step in, it is important to be a guide for your child as you walk them through the conflict. Do not tell them what to do. Ask them what they think they should do. This is all about independence. Some ideas include:

  • “What are you going to do to resolve the situation?”
  • “How could you have behaved differently?”
  • “Tell me some ideas about how you can improve this situation” 

Make your child feel like he or she is still in control. Often, children will come up with multiple solutions and many of them are good ideas. Let your child put those solutions to the test and see if they work. This is how children learn how to share and take turns.

At the same time, teach children that there are alternatives. Sometimes, your child simply needs some space and wants to play alone. That is okay! Let your child go off somewhere else and play for a few minutes. This is all about managing his or her emotions, which is another important skill that has to be learned.

Sharing and Taking Turns Is Critical

When children are young, they often think the world revolves around them. Sharing and taking turns is about learning the emotions of others. This is an important skill that children will have to learn before they start Kindergarten. If you think your child is having trouble learning how to share and take turns, this is normal! Try employing a few of these strategies with your child. With creativity and persistence, your child can learn how to share and take turns with others.

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