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Teaching an "Only" Child to Share

By Jodie Lynn

A mom recently brought up a scenario that I frequently hear about in one-child families. Here is her dilemma:

Her son does not have any brothers or sisters. Now that school has started, he has gotten even worse about sharing. When he goes over to someone's house, it does not take long before he wants to come home and play with "his" toys. When he has friends over, he will pull the toy or book away if the other child tries to play with it.

To tell the truth, I do not think this is a challenge that runs amuck in one-child families. It might be noticed more quickly, but all parents go through similar situations.

1. Make sure you understand the reason why your son does not like to share. Sometimes children may not know how to answer this and appear rude and selfish. Role-play. During role-playing, something said or done may click and you will understand his position. This does not mean you have to agree with it. It just provides you with more information so you can help him to help himself.

2. Try to check out the rules about sharing at childcare, school, camp and even at other children's houses. If others are not sharing, politely ask why and then explain it to your child. Maybe he is just doing what is being done to him and this is the way he is learning about the process.

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3. Don't force your son to share special items. Have a box ready to keep these out of sight when others come over. Personally take the box and put it in a safe place from everyone including your son. If he is too young to understand this, do not let him see you do it. You can always bring the items out after the friend has gone home.

4. Find out who is coming over and how they play. If it is an "active" child, plan a few activities away from breakables and allow for a shorter playtime.

5. Don't make a big deal out of the situation. Change the subject and keep things moving. Remember to catch your son in the act of displaying acceptable behavior, give plenty of hugs and praise when he does share.

It is actually OK for you not to make him share every single toy or book in his room when a friend comes over to play. Rule number three works really well by labeling a box "special" and putting it up before kids come over. They will never see the box of toys or books and if the play date is kept short, your child may not even ask for them. If he does, say, "If I get out your special box of toys, your friend gets to play with them too. Do you agree to do this?"

Rule of thumb: He may not share even if he says he will until around age four or so. Be prepared to have to put the box back away and divert their attention to a new activity that will require both of them to become involved with "hands-on."

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© Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/health columnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including,,,,, and Lynn has written four books and contributed to three others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest books are "Mom CEO (Chief Everything Officer) - Having, Doing and Surviving It All!" (June 2006) and "Syndication Secrets - What No One Will Tell You!" (March 2006).
Please visit for details on her new radio talk show, Inside Parenting Success.


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