Rossella Fanelli, PhD
Young children have difficulty sharing. This is a normal part of development. I remember when my son was three years old and I asked him to share a ball with another child. He refused and said, "No, it’s mine." As I continued to insist, he took the ball and threw it over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. Now, no one would play with it!
This incident was embarrassing but now I smile thinking about it, for I understand that two and three year olds are just beginning to develop a feeling of being a separate person from their mother or primary parent. With this cognitive understanding comes attachment to favorite objects that can stand in for a parent who is not present. Thus a child brings a favorite stuffed animal to bed and is able to sleep without his parent’s presence. Imagine how difficult it would be for the child to share that treasured toy.
The other cognitive development that has yet to occur for young children is true empathy, which usually doesn’t develop until six years of age. Children are ready to share their possessions when they can stand in another child’s shoes and experience their feelings of happiness or sadness.
What can a parent do to help their child become an empathic human being who is willing and able to share belongings with others? Here are a few suggestions:
Don’t force a child to share
Know when to step in
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