Sad young girl drinking glass of water
Q: I have a kid who just refuses to share. She is 5 years old, and so ungenerous. It irks me! What can I do? If I force her to share with a friend she is either rude or has a melt down. HELP!

A: Most parents have a mortal fear raising a selfish kid. Isn't greed one of the seven deadly sins? Rest assured this is not necessarily your fate! Children are born with a self-interested orientation and we have to help them develop a care and concern for other people. It just takes some time and training. Here's how.

I suggest you explain to your daughter that the main floor of the house is for everyone and things in the common areas are for all to share. If she would like to keep her own things to herself and not share, she can play with those toys in the privacy of her bedroom. When given this choice "share or play alone" most kids prefer to share. Notice it's a choice they make rather than a decision forced upon them.

Before a play date, ask her to remove any things she doesn't want to share with her friend before they arrive. If during the play date sharing becomes an issue, you can give her the choice to share as is required of a play date or to end the play date and send her friend home. She may test you, but after a few experiences of having a friend sent home, she will be more likely to share in order to have her friend stay on future play dates.

I also suggest that you find opportunities daily and weekly for her to help others. It could be as simple as holding a door open, offering to hand out cookies to company or doing a job around the house. These small acts of kindness are a kind of sharing, too. It's an opportunity for her to develop a focus on what she can do for others, rather than what's in it for her.

With each interaction of giving and helping others, you can help her to notice how she is appreciated and how good it must feel for her. With time, the natural desire to share evolves with it being forced. Phew, eh?

Are you wondering if something your child does is "normal"? Send your questions to Parentdish's parenting expert, Alyson Schafer: (we'll keep it anonymous!).

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