Past Questions

I would like to know if anyone can help me, find away to help my 4 going on 5 year- old, how to share and play together with other kids and his younger brother. My son feels everything is his, he was the first born in the family but I am going out of my mind trying to make him understand that he needs to share thing. He does the same at school. Help me if you can. I would like to know if there is a book that could guide me.

Thank you,

parent in need

As the first born in the family, your son may not understand sharing at all, unless he has been around other kids before his brother was born. You don't say how old the little brother is, but I'm guessing he is around "just-walking" age - as before then, there's usually not much trouble with the younger brother getting into things that aren't "his."

Children at this age are very ego-centric and they are SUPPOSED to be this way - it is normal - they eventually grow up to be loving, sharing adults! - but at this age, everything of any importance is "MINE" And it IS hard to have to share your parents love, and have all the attention going to baby brother when it used to go to the oldest all alone!

The best thing you can do is to TAKE TIME FOR TRAINING here and ACKNOWLEDGE HIS FEELINGS of not wanting to share. (Say, "I know it is hard for you to share this ball with your brother because ; how about getting your brother a book, or something else?"

It is important to NOT make him share - that makes him all the more nervous about sharing - he shouldn't have to share everything - can you make some things be his only - and some things his brother's only - and other things are both of theirs? I just attended a workshop at the California Association for the Education of Young Children with Bev Bos. She said, "Young Children can't share, so don't ask them to." This does not mean he is a selfish person only a normal child. This doesn't mean you shouldn't "take time for training." Just don't expect it to take hold until much later.

A child actually has to understand MINE, HIS, OURS to be capable of sharing - and under the age of 7 or 8 (the age when adult thinking becomes possible..) it is a hard thing to share, and not to be expected - even if Grandma or the teacher thinks he should share and know how to do it! He is NOT being selfish! He is merely learning the whole concept of ownership! And a person can't share unless they understand that some things are theirs only and they have the right to decide whether to share or not!

It is an over-rated early-childhood expectation to share!

You can model this by showing your son how to "give' the baby his toys - and say, "here, this is your book , and this one is ." Practice, Practice, Practice. And let your older son try to do what you are doing - and label this behavior "sharing!" After months of watching you share and talk about it, he will do it and try it out - maybe sooner than later, but then you WANT TO NOTICE his sharing and say so!

There are Bernstein Bear books and other children's stories about sharing that would help you teach the concept to your son - and then after you read the books, you can talk with him and say things like, "one of these days it won't be so hard to share!"

If it is important TO SHARE sometimes, you could help them negotiate a time - say 5 min for one, 5 min for the other - set a timer, and then when the bell rings they re-set the clock and go again - then you aren't the "meanie" - the clock is!

Another idea is to trade - if the little brother wants what the big brother has, have him try to trade for what he wants - same with the other child.

It's easy to get into the "even-mode" and buy 2 of everything, exactly alike - but it is actually better to appreciate the children for their differences and to buy toys they like to play with rather than get duplicates so they won't fight.

Lastly, please try to concentrate on teaching the skill of sharing, rather than being the referee. Teaching them kindly and firmly and respectfully what words to say will be an invaluable skill.

The more attention you pay to the not sharing, or punish the one who isn't sharing, the longer the behavior will go on, as the child is getting attention (albeit negative!) and wants attention, so will work to get it any way he can.

I hope this helps - it is frustrating to be a parent of 2 young children who can't share because they don't know how! Become the teacher rather than the referee and they (and you!) will be very fortunate to have a parent who understands why it is so hard to share.

You could pick up Positive Discipline for Preschoolers or Positive Discipline The First Three Years  (Ch. 13 has an excellent section beginning on pg. 165 on Sharing that will really be helpful to you.)

Remember that these early years are a journey and that a child doesn't learn something like sharing in one "lesson!" We learn best through repetition over and over, as human beings - and if you're lucky, by the time you are bored teaching "sharing" they might get it!!!Handling both boys lovingly without taking sides is the best way - and celebrate in their learning of all you will teach them! You are their best - and first - teacher!! Cherish these years - they fly so fast through time!

Sending my warmest regards,

Mary L. Hughes, MHR (Masters of Human Relations); BS (Child Development) (and a 33-yr. preschool teacher veteran and Certified Positive Discipline Associate)


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