Best Tip Ever For Sharing

Best Tip Ever For Sharing

One-step tip for sharing:

Allowing a child to keep a toy until they are done is recommended by many parenting experts. While that empowers the toy-holding child, it does little for the child waiting for their turn. What the waiting child needs to know is “when.”

So what works best for both children is asking the toy-holding child “WHEN” the other child can play with it.*

Getting to say “WHEN” (a rare experience for children) meets the toy-holding child’s need for power by granting them control of the toy. Plus the waiting child can wait much more easily when he knows WHEN he will get the toy.

But what if the child’s answer is “Never”?

This is one of the wonderful things about SAY WHAT YOU SEE®. You always take the child at their word. In this case, that means honoring the child’s answer and beginning Language of Listening® Mediation.

Mediation is simple. You turn to the waiting child, and relay the message matter-of-factly, “He says never. Will that work for you?” When the waiting child says, “No,” you turn back to the toy-holding child and say, “she says that won’t work. Must be something else that will.” Then go back and forth until they agree.

When empowered to say WHEN, children quickly move from “never,” to “next week,” to “one hour,” etc. until they hit the point of willing sharing. You might have to see this yourself to believe it, but I promise this is what happens. I’ve done this many times with many different children and have never seen it fail.

My biggest challenge is keeping a straight face when asking the waiting child if “never” will work for them. I remember one older sister starting off with “never,” then “next summer,” then “next week” and the younger sister seriously thinking about it then repeating, “No,” after each offer until they arrived at a mutually acceptable “when” – “After I do this one thing first.”

Their mom’s jaw dropped in disbelief when her older daughter followed through and kept her word. But the child could do it because it was “her” word. For the first time, instead of being made to share, she had been allowed to say “when.”

However, if in some rare case the toy-holding child adamantly stays with “Never,” you would simply turn back to the waiting child and say, “Looks like they need the toy just for themselves right now. Must be something else you can do…” and SAY WHAT YOU SEE to help the waiting child process their feelings.

Rather than promoting favoritism, it turns out that the act of honoring one child’s exceptional need for a toy, reassures the other that in a similar situation their need will be honored, too. Children’s need for keeping toys all to themselves varies from day to day. When sharing occurs naturally, all you need to do is point it out as in, “You shared!” and to the other child say, “You waited patiently.” That helps both children connect with STRENGTHs they can draw on next time.
Using WHEN and pointing out STRENGTHs in this way can change the entire dynamics of a family, playgroup, or classroom! Try it for yourself and prepare to be surprised!

*Did you notice this tip started with a question? While questions should be avoided during the connection phase (SAY WHAT YOU SEE instead), questions can be helpful when they are used to put a child in the lead during the guidance phase of an interaction. But don’t overdo it. Kids still don’t like to be questioned 😉



  1. brilliant, as always.
    of course, what you’re doing is moving from a scarcity to an abundance paradigm….. very powerful indeed!


  2. Julia Kurskaya |

    This GREAT advice from both you and dr. Markham lets kids to be generous and not sacrificing. This allows them to experince the joy of sharing and not the misery of sacrificing, something that they never want or never will feel ready to do!

    Yes, I’ve just read your post on generousity and sacrifice! I wouldn’t have been able to figure it if you hadn’t done it for me!

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