Years ago my husband and I attended a parenting
class and one thing that stands out in my mind from
that course was something very simplistic that the
trainer said. He asked the question, "If your kid
doesn't like broccoli, what should you do?"
I thought for a minute while he paused and the first
thought that came to me was, do my kids even like
Then in a loud voice the trainer enthusiastically
said, "You should feed him MORE broccoli, that's what!"
The reason this lesson stands out in my mind so clearly
years later is because I have used it over and over in
making my parenting decisions. I have gone back and
pondered it again and again. Why? This one simple
concept has become a principle to me in my parenting
If your child doesn't want to do something, at times,
it is appropriate to make him do it. Those of you that
know me personally know that I strive to allow my
children to make decisions for themselves and at times
they make wrong and unwise choices. The goal is to
have them learn from those poor choices. I don't
believe in forcing them to do things such as eating all
of their dinner, wearing their hair a certain way or
perhaps wearing shoes they hate. You do have to
balance things and encourage your children to grow
emotionally and behaviorally to become good citizens.
You do that by exposing them and influencing them to
attempt new things that they may not want to do. In
other words, there are always things in life that we
must do, even if we don't want to. We have to go to
work. We have to go to school. We have to obey the
laws of the land.
Now, lets apply this to getting your children to share
with others. If you have a child that will not share their
toys and you indulge that behavior by allowing it, well,
subliminally, you are telling the child that you agree
with him and he really doesn't have to share his toys.
Sharing is something that a child must be taught.
There is a healthy way to teach your child to share and
you might be surprised to know that I don't think you
should always make your child share with others.
There is a step-by-step process that you can follow to
get your child to share.
The first step is awareness.
Are you aware of what is going on with your child's
playmates? As the adult, make yourself aware of what
is going on when playmates come around. Listen to
them playing. Your child may not want to share for
fear of losing a favorite toy or for fear that his favorite
toy will get broken or scribbled on. Pay attention and
see if your child has a friend that is too wild with toys
and often breaks them, or maybe a playmate tends
to "accidentally" take things home with him and not
bring them back, or maybe they even have a tendency
to color on toys? If this is the case, then you
shouldn't make your child share with a playmate like
that! You may even encourage your child to put his
favorite toys up when that particular playmate comes
over. Or better yet, reevaluate who your child is
The next step would be to think of yourself.
If you have an irresponsible friend that borrows your
lawn tools and leaves them out in the yard to get
ruined, you probably don't want to loan him anything do
you? This is usually the same friend that is constantly
wanting to borrow many of your items, probably
because he ruined his own already, right? Perhaps you
have a friend or family member that doesn't return
things when they borrow them or maybe they return
them damaged, dirty or in poor working condition.
Again, who wants to loan something to someone like
that? I suspect not you and I know, not me! So don't
make your child do that with his items either!
On the other hand, if you have a friend that borrows
things and returns them in a timely manner, in the
condition in which you leant them, well then you are
more likely to "share" your things with this person,
right? Explain this concept to your child using simple
words. Ask your child if he thinks the playmate takes
good care of his or her toys. Talk to them and get
them thinking about it. If the playmate is too rough,
don't make your child share with him.
The next step is listening. TO YOURSELF!
After you have made yourself aware of the playmates
behavior, the next thing is to use words that children
understand. When an adult uses the word "share" in
terms of food, the child sees you rip a cookie in half
and give some to someone else. Whoa! Next, you pick
up the child's doll and say, I want you to "share" your
doll with your friend. Yikes! The kid half expects you
to rip the doll's arms off. Adults sometimes don't realize
the power of their words on a child. Listen to yourself!
What I would suggest is for you to use the
word "share" only when you are dealing with food
because that is really what you are asking your child to
do, give a little of what they have to someone else.
When you are dealing with toys and objects you might
say, "Let's allow your friend have a turn playing with
your toy now, okay?". This is more understandable to
the child and they will not envision you ripping their toy
After saying everything just right, you may still find
that you have a child that won't share or take turns!
What then? Well, that is when I go back to the
phrase, "If they don't like broccoli, feed them more
broccoli!" In other words, MAKE them share. How can
you make them? Simple, you can do this by
saying, "You must take turns with your toys and if you
don't, mommy or daddy will take the toy and put it
away from you until you decide to give others a turn
playing with it." I know, you are thinking, wow, that is
tough, right? Yup, anything that your child is so
attached to that they won't allow anyone else near it,
is too much of an attachment. It is an attitude of total
selfishness and you need to discourage it.
You don't need to torture the child and keep
threatening to take the toy. (Click the link in this
newsletter to read about threatening repeating). Just
like the Nike commercial says. Just do it! Do it very
logically and calmly after telling the child ONE time only.
If the child has a fit and asks where the toys is, explain
to them that it is safe and that you have put it away
until they were willing to allow others a turn. Do not
give in, no matter what! When the child agrees to allow
others a turn, give the item back to him. Empower
your child with control of the timeframe in which he
gets the item back. Each child is different and one child
might decide to share immediately and another child will
decide to take turns only after a week.
My final words to you are this, remember, being a
parent is challenging work! Stay focused on your
parenting plan, turn on the creative portion of your
brain and then? OUTSMART THE LITTLE BOOGERS! It is
the only way!
Michelle Shelton and her husband Paul live in Gilbert, Arizona with their five children. Michelle is a full time licensed Real Estate Agent for Keller Williams Realty Southeast Valley. She specializes in Arizona Horse Property. You can visit her on the web at http://www.askmichelleshelton.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org