Play Date Sharing

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Parenting | 0 comments

Play Date Sharing

It’s Sunday afternoon, two hours into your four-year-old daughter’s third play date with the neighbor’s kid from across the street. So far, you have had to come up with at least 30 different ways to convince your child to share the toy she’s got in her hands. There are at least a million and one different toys available, but your daughter’s guest only wants to play with the toy your child has.

The problem isn’t so much that the girls are getting tired, but YOU are getting tired and rapidly running out of creative ideas to manage the impossible sharing dilemma. Really, the only option left is to just stand in the room and every time your child picks up a toy grab it out of her hands and give it to the other child. Well that’s probably not going to do much to teach either child anything about sharing. At least not anything positive.

At this point, I think it is time for a game of follow the leader, or build a sheet tent with the couch cushions, or do just about any other activity that does not involve specific toys. Whenever things seem to be getting frustrating, the best thing to do is change the subject and move on to a different situation.

But what do you really want to teach your child about sharing?

If your child hands over every toy with no protest that won’t seem right. If she refuses to share any toy at all that won’t seem right either. So what exactly do we want from them?

I have good news! According to an article in Psychology Today children between the ages of 3 to 7 tend to become more “Prosocial” and more likely to share with other children as they get older. There is no exact timeline here, but in the study “The Dictator Game,” only 30% of the 3 year olds tested decided to share and a whopping 70% of the 6 year olds shared.

Of course you will need to teach your child about sharing by example and positive reinforcement so when they are inclined to share they will understand how it works. In the meantime, light encouragement is okay, but forcing them or guilting them into sharing before they are mature enough to be comfortable with it is unnecessary. Be patient and allow them to develop naturally.

Also, maybe you should cut the three hour play date to an hour and a half, for your own sanity.