Playdates inevitably involve toys, and toys lead to occasional conflicts about who gets to play with what and when. The situation can get complicated when the parents at playdates disagree about the logistics of sharing as well, so keep these thoughts in mind:
The younger the child, the less they comprehend the benefits of sharing. It's a good idea to introduce toddlers and pre-schoolers to the concept of "sharing," but younger kids won't really understand. In fact, to a toddler, a favorite toy is an extension of herself. To have to share it is the same as giving up part of her identity. Children over the age of 10 have had many experiences with siblings or schoolmates where sharing was necessary, and they more readily understand its value.
Look for hidden biases. Research findings indicate that many parents have a built-in bias in favor of a child's visiting friend. For example, if your child has his friend's toy and the friend wants it back, you might be inclined to tell him to return it. But if your child wanted his own toy back, you'd likely tell your child to share. That can be confusing and frustrating for kids.
The rules for sharing are wide-ranging. You might think it's appropriate for your child's friends to have access to all of your child's toys. Another parent might put aside some favorite toys and not let anyone play with them. If your rules differ from another parent's, avoid thinking that there is only one reasonable way. It isn't a commentary on your parenting skills or philosophies.
Look for hidden biases. Consider the importance of not sharing. If your child had an indiscriminate attitude of "What's mine is yours" then—over time—she would probably get taken advantage of. Taking special care of one's property sometimes can only happen if it is not loaned out or shared. (This is especially true for teenagers who might share their cell phones or iPods, only to tell you later that their friend lost it or broke it.) Sharing is a good thing; always sharing everything can be a real problem.
Siblings can be good (or bad) teachers of sharing. Kids will take sharing more seriously if it is practiced by siblings instead of simply taught by the parents. Encourage older children to demonstrate sharing in front of a younger sibling. Also have them demonstrate how to not share, but still be friendly. ("I really want to finish playing with this. But I promise you can play with it when I'm done.")
Ask older kids ahead of time if there are any toys or belongings they really would not want to share with a friend. Then find out why. They may have excellent reasons. Older children have more insights into the playing habits of their friends than you might.
Reward patience. A child who is good at sharing has learned to be patient when waiting to get a toy back. The ability to delay gratification is a prerequisite for being able to share with friendliness and maturity. Look for opportunities (that have nothing to do with sharing) where you can praise your child for waiting patiently. Long car rides or simply waiting for dinner are two common times when kids can learn to wait without getting impatient.
Use examples from your own life. Tell stories of when you had to share and how it worked out. Give examples when you chose not to share and had good reasons for acting that way. It's important for kids to learn to distinguish times when sharing makes good sense and when it doesn't.report abuse