What to expect at this age
For the most part, kindergartners are good at sharing. They understand and even act on empathy, they're developing friendships, and they like to please others. They have learned many of the rules of social interaction, so unless they're having a bad day (or going through a rough patch), they generally share pretty well — so well, in fact, that they may come home from school with a classmate's shoes on, because they're "sharing."
Some kindergartners, though, aren't convinced that sharing is such a good thing. This is a matter of temperament. "Kids who are more easily irritated by changes or difficult circumstances sometimes have a hard time sharing," says Susanne Denham, a developmental psychology professor at
What to do
Talk it up. Your kindergartner is old enough to engage in a discussion about sharing, so talk about the issue and problem-solve together: "Let's say Ginny comes over and wants to try out your new glitter paints. What will you tell her?" If your youngster is reluctant to share her art supplies, ask her, "How can we avoid a problem?" or "What can you do so that Ginny isn't disappointed?" Maybe she'll suggest putting away the paints before Ginny arrives or decide to let her pal try one of her new colors, along with all of the old ones. In your conversation, point out to your child how sharing will help her build friendships, something of paramount importance to her now.
Don't punish stinginess. If you tell your kindergartner that she's selfish, discipline her when she doesn't share, or force her to hand over a prized possession, you'll foster resentment, not generosity. "To encourage sharing, use positive reinforcement rather than admonishment," advises Roni Leiderman, Ph.D., associate dean of the
Respect your kindergartner's things. If your youngster feels that her clothes, books, and toys are being manhandled, it's unlikely she'll give them up even for a moment. So ask permission before you borrow her colored pencils, and give her the option of saying no. Make sure that siblings, friends, and babysitters respect her things too, by asking if they can use them and by taking good care of them when they do.
Lead by example. The best way for your kindergartner to learn generosity is to witness it. So share your ice cream with her. Offer her your scarf, and ask to try on her new barrette. Use the word share to describe what you're doing, and don't forget to remind her that intangibles (like feelings, ideas, and stories) can be shared too. Most important, let her see you give and take, compromise, and share with others.
Teach her what not to share. Once she gets the hang of it, your kindergartner may be so eager to spread the wealth that you'll need to teach her that some items — like her toothbrush, comb, hat, and shoes — are best kept to herself.