Simple strategies to change bad behavior

Jan 4, 2008 at 8:29 p.m. ET

Learning to share is one of the first friendship skills children learn -- and they generally begin to learn it around two or three. Learning to share is hard for little ones who are, by nature, self-centered. Here are tips to teach this essential skill to your child.

Children sharing toys

Model how to share

The best way kids learn isn't by our lectures but showing them. So show your child how to share. Get on the floor with your little one -- and gently roll a rubber ball back and forth between you. As you do, say "My turn, now it's your turn. Roll it back to Mommy." Your child will begin to get the idea that sharing means taking turns.

Create sharing boundaries

One way to minimize friend conflicts is to help your child put away any special toys he does not want to share, before the playgroup arrives. Then say: "Anything you leave out are things you have to share."

Show a new way

Whenever your child forgets to share, try role-playing with her a few ways to ask nicely for a turn: "Instead of grabbing the toy, tell your brother that you'd like a turn. Now you try."

Reinforce sharing

One of the fastest ways to increase sharing is by "catching" your kid's sharing efforts. Just remember to describe what your child did so she'll be more likely to repeat the behavior: "It was so nice how you shared your stuffed animals with Kevin. Did you see his big smile?" Learning to share is not only necessary for making and keeping friends, but also essential to developing the virtues of fairness and compassion. And we can begin to help our children learn to share when they are toddlers.

Remember: behavior is learned. Make sure you're taking the time to teach your children the right way to behave, then don't stop until they do.

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