Teach Kids To Share Without Losing Your Mind

How to teach your kids to share without losing your mind.
As a kid, I used to hide the toys that I didn’t want to share. I once hid my Skipper doll so good that I couldn’t even find it myself. My mother told me that I was selfish.

She was right. I was selfish. 

All kids are selfish. A slightly nicer name for selfish is egocentric. The way that kid brains develop in the early years leads to egocentrism. Egocentrism means that kids have very little regard for the feelings and desires of other people. Those little brains aren’t yet programmed to share. Which is a big reason it is so difficult.

I will be honest, as an adult–I still don’t love to share. Do you?

Imagine this: You are sitting at your desk working. You are right in the middle of an important project of which you have significant invested time and energy. Then I walk up and say, “Ok, times up. It’s Molly’s turn with your computer.”

You have been slaving over those Excel spreadsheets all day. Out of nowhere, it’s time for Molly’s turn. Molly is a tweenage girl who now gets a turn on your computer. The first thing she does is click the red “X” and closes every one of those Excel windows (without saving). Then she gets on Snapchat and starts posting selfies.

I challenge you not to throw a tantrum. You must resist the urge to hit. 

Obviously our kids aren’t building complex Excel spreadsheets and writing lengthy reports. But when kids are at play–it is truly their work. They become immersed in the activity. Even if it “just looks like play” to us, it might be a big stinking deal to them.

My son likes to build epically tall Magnatile towers. When he does it, I love watching him work. He is so focused and dedicated to making it the tallest.tower.ever. His 11 month old sister also loves the Magnatiles. She likes to throw them and eat them.

Here’s what I could do: I could set a timer and force him to give his sister a turn after 5 minutes. At that point, it is her turn with the Magnatiles. His hard work is now going to be demolished as she comes in and goes King-Kong style on his tower. Then she tries to eat it. He is going to have to completely start this project over again when he gets another turn.

But he’s not supposed to throw a tantrum. He must resist the urge to hit.


I don’t care much for tantrums or hitting. Therefore, there isn’t mandated turn taking happening at my house.

On a similar note, I also refuse to be a referee to decide “who gets the toy” every few minutes.

I am going to share with you how we make it happen instead. I would like to say I am the brain-child behind this method, but I am not. This is actually the way that sharing is handled at my son’s school. I think it makes the most sense to keep the rules at home and at school the same–I am an advocate for consistency when possible.

The beauty of this method is that it doesn’t require an adult to enforce. That means, no adult coming in to lay down the law and set the timer to dictate how long each child gets which toy. That means no adult arbitrarily deciding when a “turn is up”. This method also allows adults to show respect to the work/play of which each child is engaged. The wise Montessorians have been handling sharing like this close to 100 years. 

Here’s how it works.

How to Teach Kids To Share: The Method

When Child A. has a toy, he is allowed to keep it for as long as he wants. Yep–I said it. AS LONG AS HE WANTS. When Child B. comes along and wants the same toy, Child B. has two options.

  1. Child B. can sit and watch Child A. play with the toy until he finishes and puts the toy down. At this point the toy is a free agent and up for grabs.
  2. Child B. can pick something else to play with while the desired toy is occupied. When Child A. puts the original toy down, it returns to its status as a free agent and it up for grabs.

Once all kids involved get older and develop the ability to play collaboratively (which usually happens after the age of 3/4) there is an additional option

  • Child B. can ask Child A. if they can play together with the toy. Child A. reserves full right to say no. In the case that Child A. says no, Child B. returns to options 1 & 2.

It’s very simple to explain.  When we have babysitters or other kids over to our house to play–I simply them the rule.

“You can play with whatever you want, for as long as you like. When you put it down, it’s up for grabs”

Once your kids get the hang of this, it will require very little adult intervention. Until that point, if you see them ripping the toys out of each other’s hands they will need gentle reminders of the rule. Don’t except immediate results with this–it’s going to take time for it to become ingrained into their minds. Stick with it. Consistency is everything with this method.

This method for sharing really works–but getting kids to cooperate can be exhausting. Want a free 5 day mini-course with effective methods to make it happen? It’s 5 days, 1 minute per day and it will change your life. GET IT HERE


Like this post? Pin it! 

How to teach kids to share

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.