Can we teach our children to share?

This task seems daunting as we hear young voices scream “mine!” throughout the day. A toy that he chewed, stepped on, and threw across the room the day before is something he can’t live without today. The world just might end if you or another child remove it from his grasp. And amassing more things, just about anything, seems to consume him 95% of the time.

So, then, how is it possible to even broach the topic of sharing with our children? What blows my mind is that so often I read about how humans are intrinsically born to share. Really?! According to this article on, “babies have been observed exhibiting empathic behavior—the foundation of sharing—42 minutes after birth.”

Here’s the weird thing — I’ve found that when my son is even slightly engaged with the object of in question and another child expresses interest in it, he feels this overwhelming need to hoard his possessions. Yet, when we’re not in a situation where he feels his things are threatened and I suggest that he pick out some toys of his that someone else might like, he’s totally game. In fact, he loves sharing when it’s on his terms and in his control. He beams when he finds out how happy the toy he gave to a friend made the other person. When selecting a toy to share, he wants to know what that person likes, what their favorite color is, and whether I think the friend will like it.

While I’ve hardly mastered the art of teaching my child to share, I’ve come to the realization that I need to provide him with more opportunities to exercise his desire to share. Because, he does, in fact, get great satisfaction from sharing and loves doing it! Who knew!