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HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

How Can I Get My Child to Share?

By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant

Question:

My son is 5 years old, and he has a terrible time sharing. He gets upset when he isn't in control while playing with other kids. I've tried to teach him about sharing, but he doesn't get it. Are there any techniques out there that I can try to help my son share and not be so bossy?

Answer:

A 5-year-old boy who has a hard time sharing is not unusual. Many developmental experts would perceive this in the realm of play.

A good test to see what stage of play your son is in is to observe him with other children. If your child is able to play alongside another child without a number of conflicts but does not share his toys, this is referred to as parallel play. If he is engaged with another child and sharing the same play toys, this is referred to as interactive play.

Parents can influence the development of their children's social behaviors through direct interventions by providing opportunities for peer interactions, monitoring their children's encounters with peers, coaching their children to deal competently with peers and sanctioning unacceptable peer behaviors.

I encourage parents to play with their kids and model appropriate interactive behaviors. A good example might be, "I will share my blocks with you because it looks like you could use them." Reinforce positive interactive play through comments like, "I like how you shared your cars with Brian. It shows that you are growing up." Hopefully, this will get your child on track to be more interactive in his play.

The last adjective you used was "bossy" when describing his play. This indicates to me that he wants to be in control. Helping him feel secure and in control will reduce this type of interactive behavior.


Dr. Joseph Gianesin is a professor at Springfield College School of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist, a school social worker and a school administrator. Along with his academic appointment, Dr. Gianesin is a program and behavioral consultant for public schools in Massachusetts, helping them develop and manage programs for children with significant mental health problems.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/30/2009:
"my son is 3 and is terrible at sharing in nursery he tends to hit or grab their faces when playing with toys, i have tried to tell him to share but he keeps saying that it's his toys. Please help it's very upsetting as i have tried my best to disapline him and teach him to share and be nice to other children."
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