Have you ever thought about how many problems are caused because people never learned how to share well? Sounds silly, but think about it for a minute. An unwillingness to share easily is often a prime indicator of a selfish heart. And we all know selfishness is the root of many sins.
Not to mention sibling fights, friendship spats and other problems caused by children who don’t know how to share well. As with any character trait, it’s easier to help your child make a character trait God wants them to have a part of their identity if you start when they are young.
There are really quite a few simple and even fun things you can do to encourage even very young children to make sharing a part of who they are – not a rule they are struggling to obey.
- When supplies to do something are needed, make sure there are only enough if someone shares. This works as well with craft supplies as it does with toys and even pie. Part of being willing to share is understanding that if someone doesn’t share, others may suffer. Lectures are rarely as effective as experience. Don’t torture very young children, though. Start by making observations, quickly followed by suggestions. “We all need to glue something, but there’s only one glue stick and Daddy has it. What can we do so we all have the glue we need to make this?” As your kids get older and more experienced, you can just ask the question or give a prompt. In the beginning, you may even want to occasionally make the observation after a person has shared about how there was enough for everyone – because the person chose to share what he/she had.
- Help children practice the one in – one out rule. Often we are selfish almost by accident. We keep buying new outfits without donating the ones we no longer like, but are still in good condition. Or we let our kids continue to accumulate toys, even though they only play with a small fraction of them. Make it a family habit that before buying new clothes or occasions like birthdays or Christmas when new toys appear, you go through what you have and choose items to donate to others to use. Most of the time your kids may no longer be able to wear the clothes or no longer really care about the toy. It’s a good exercise though, because it helps them understand that holding on to things can deny them to others who really need them. Plus, if your kids are beginning to develop a selfish heart, they may still pitch a fit about donating a toy they don’t use or clothes they can’t wear. As they get a little older, also let them choose where they donate their items.
- Encourage them to give their best, not just their rejects. This can start in a non-threatening way. When your church asks for food donations, do your kids search the pantry for the foods they don’t like to donate? It’s pretty common, because they think they will avoid having to eat the hated item later. Talk about how they would feel if your family needed food donations and everyone gave you cans of the food your child hates because they hate it, too! Eventually, the discussion and practice can move from shared family items to personal items.
- Remember sharing isn’t just about giving, but about lending, too. Encourage your kids to share “their” toys, clothes and other items with siblings and friends. When the inevitable breakage or non-return eventually happens, talk about how God wants us to have the attitude that every loan is a gift – just in case it is!
- Make a batch of their favorite cookies together. As they bake, talk about with whom you can share them. Let them choose whether you keep a few for yourselves or give them all away. Once again, it’s not that it’s wrong to keep some. It just gives you a little peek into their thought process and hearts at this point in time.
Teaching your kids about what God wants them to do doesn’t have to be a long series of parental lectures. You don’t have to have a list of rules they must check off each day. Sometimes just using life to teach them God’s principles and commands is the best way to make those lessons stick for life.