Some days it feels like children will never learn to share with their siblings, and some days everything runs smoothly. Though I feel frustrated with my kids sometimes, when I take a step back, I can see them putting the lessons they learn unconsciously and deliberately to use on a daily basis.
My 4 younger children aren’t perfect. They certainly have their moments. The fact that they are close together in age and there’s four of them makes teaching sharing a lot easier for us than a family with one or two children. I think because my oldest son grew up as an only child for 7 years, he had a harder time learning to help his younger siblings and sharing with them.
Yet, children can learn to share. My oldest son has stepped up quite a few times as a tween and teen. We never need to ask him to help with certain tasks like cleaning up after family parties.
5 Ways to Teach Kids about Sharing and Taking Turns
1. Use schedules for sharing activities like electronics and computer time
We use a schedule for our 4 younger ones. For the computer and DS, the kids get to play for 20 minutes on alternate days. Every 4th day, they get to pick the tv shows to watch before bedtime. Teachers in classrooms use schedules and assigned helpers to manage their classrooms; why not use the same techniques at home?
2. Have Bigs help Littles even if it’s getting their diaper or sippy cup.
3. Work every day on manners – greeting people, being around people, taking responsibility for our actions when we hurt someone, and table manners.
Honestly, it took me awhile to understand that as a parent, I needed to be proactive about teaching manners. I learned this as the kids grew, and I also had one of my sister-in-laws as an example and mentor. Surrounding yourself with other parents who model the parenting style you want to emulate helps enormously.
4. Build sharing into their daily environment.
Our younger 4 children share 2 bedrooms. Everyone works together to take care of their room – making beds, cleaning up books, putting the dirty laundry in the basement. This same community work ethic is carried in other ways such as having 2 children assigned to table duty each week.
5. Model the behavior you want to see in your kids.
This can be the hardest part for a parent because we’re human, and we make our mistakes. If we take our kids food from them at the dinner table as a “funny thing to do,” we’re encouraging them to do it, too. If we don’t look them in the eye when they’re talking to us, they’ll learn that, too.
If we make a mistake and apologize for it, and make amends, our children learn that.