Best Tip Ever For Sharing

Best Tip Ever For Sharing

Dr. Laura Markham made a great point in a Q&A on 4-year-old's struggles with sharing: letting a child keep a toy as long as needed allows the child to experience the joy of truly sharing when he or she is ready. Her additional points about the child's need to cry out a frustration that is probably not about the toy at all, but something bigger, and how to play out an issue Playful Parenting-style, were music to my ears. I hope lots of parents read it!

If you've seen my book you will know I nodded in agreement the whole way through it.  Plus I broke out into a proud grin when I saw that she had promoted a podcast interview with me in the same newsletter!

Of course, I had to add my favorite one-step tip for sharing to the comments in her post, which she immediately published, and I will re-post here:

One-step tip for sharing: ASK "WHEN?"

Ask the toy-holding child "WHEN" the other child can play with it.*
Like keeping the toy until done, getting to say "WHEN" (a rare experience for children) keeps the toy-holding child in control. If the child's answer is "Never," you honor that, turn to the waiting child, and relay the message matter-of-factly, "She says never. Will that work for you?" When that child says, "No," you turn back to the toy-holding child and say, "He 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 that point of willing sharing. Plus the waiting child can wait much more easily when he knows WHEN he will get the toy.
If the toy-holding child adamantly stays with "Never," you turn back to the waiting child and say, "Looks like she needs the toy just for herself right now. Must be something else you can do..." and apply what Dr. Markham said to help the waiting child process his 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 his 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 see their strengths.
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!

If you like my tip, please go to my comment in Dr. Markham's post and CLICK ^ (it means "like"). Feel free to share your stories about sharing here.  Together we can bring out the greatness of each and every child!

*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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