How to Deal With a Child Who Won’t Share


Got a child who won’t share? Join the club.

Sharing is hard! Also, sharing runs against a child’s basic instinct. To be honest, sharing runs counter to human nature in general. I know if there is one scoop of ice cream left at my house, I don’t want to share it with anyone. Seriously, when a human’s first job is to survive, sharing food, water, shelter with anyone except our offspring really just is not an instinct we were given.

Sharing is important; it makes the world a much better place, and leads to all kinds of skills you want your child to have as an adult, including how to keep a friend or help someone less fortunate.

So how can you get your child to go against their own instincts and share? By making it worth their while. Like so many other skills we teach our kids (waiting in line, cleaning up after themselves, getting up for school, being nice to a sibling), sharing is something they eventually do because we require it of them. They will rarely WANT to share. So don’t make that your goal or you’re in for some serious disappointment.

Your goal is for your child to consider others’ desires and still speak up for him or herself. Some tips:

1. Make your expectation clear. “Today at the park, we are going to have fun, and also share the equipment.”

2. Make the consequences clear. “As long as you can give other people a turn, and not grab, we can stay at the park for an hour!”

3. Make the results clear. “I am so proud of how well you took turns on the swing! We are leaving early, though, because you grabbed that boy’s shovel in the sandbox and didn’t give it back when I asked you to.”

Your child will get the idea. Sharing is worth it in the above example, because it helps with the bigger goal, to stay at the playground. Consequences, by the way, are why adults continue to share even when we don’t feel like it. When I eat all the ice cream, my husband won’t share his popcorn with me!

About the writer

Dr. G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a family doctor, mom of 4, international speaker, author and TV personality. She developed the “3 R’s of Parenting” to empower parents to raise respectful, responsible, and resilient kids.Her new book, Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate is available on Dr. G focuses on tools and skills, not dishing out advice we wouldn't want anyway. Find her and her humor on Facebook and Twitter, and see her in action on YouTube.


brigitte 2 years ago

Once my three and a half DS kept squaking about not sharing the rasberry gum lollies with his one year old brother I’d bought as a rare special treat while being on an outing.

I calmly reasoned with him that it was good to share, that it would be unfair not to let his little brother have any, how it would make his brother sad if he couildn’t have any watching him as he ate them. Plus the reality was his brother would only have one or two at most while he’d have more.

DS1 still, rather uncharecteristically, remained admant about not sharing. I checked one more last time would he accept he was expected to share and do so . Got another adament no to sharing.

So I told him calmly that I accepted he was not sharing the lollies since he was not getting any of them. So he had none to share and we had no problem around lolly sharing. He never did that again.

DS2 at the same age was different. Being full time in creche he was mostly OK with sharing with non related peers.Though with his brother and father could be funny.If he got hold of a packet of anything first and found out he was REALLY expected to share he’d forsake the packet completely. Did not want it if it couldn’t be his entierly. If he’d stop eating his portion of fish and chips(rare treat meal) seeming full and DH asked if he had eniough he’d say yes,.Then when asked to surrender the chips he ‘d say no. Accepted they could go in the bin, but because were his no one else could have them. Couldn’t get his head around that at all. DH ‘s mistake was the second question on surrender rather than just taking them and eating them.

Aside from encouraging sharing principles and sharing things myself, I found having ones kids going initially to play groups then in child care, both with a large enough numbers, being siblings close enough in age, facilitates developing sharing skills. Simply by discovering you only will have others to play with you if you do share in having turns with toys or play equipment.

If parents model sharing, uphold those values, intervene and guide on a few hiccups and kids have plenty of peer exposure, sharing skills aren’t usually a problem.

Very young toddlers are sometimes developmentally limited to cope with prized things. The best then is to avoid that sharing touchy spot in contact with others so they don’t get entrenched in defense behaviours and reintroduce them to the same stuff when a bit more developed and reasonable.

If a child over three is a peristantly difficult sharer it means there is a problem that needs it’s source analysed and then worked on depending on the aetioligy.

Alison 2 years ago

I love #3 – so very important! Thanks Dr. G.


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