Helping Children who Struggle with Sharing


We have four children and our third child who is 11, refuses to share.  We know this can be a developmental stage some kids go through but she never grew out of it.  How can we help her learn the value of generosity and the importance of sharing?


Sharing is an important life skill that impacts all of our relationships.  We know that children learn to be generous not primarily by what we tell them but by what they see us do.

In one experiment, psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary and middle-school-aged children tokens for winning a game.  They could keep what they won or they could donate some tokens to a child in poverty.  They first watched a teacher-figure play the game either selfishly or generously.  Then they received a lecture on the value of being selfish, generous or neither.

When the adult acted selfishly, the children acted selfishly.  When the adult acted generously, the children acted generously.  What the adult said didn’t make much difference.  What the adult DID made all the difference in the world.  In fact, when the adult acted generously students donated significantly more, regardless of what the adult said, than when the adult acted selfishly.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 talks about the importance of modeling truth before our kids. In James 1:22, we’re encouraged to not merely listen to God’s word but actually to do what it says, to practice and demonstrate it.  Otherwise we’re only fooling ourselves.

Look for opportunities to share, to be generous, to tip well, compliment, give things away, donate your time, treasure and talents. In your family prayer times, thank God for your abundance and ask Him to lead you to people that you can bless with your sharing and in doing so reflect the kind of God we serve.

Look for examples of generosity and sharing in your marriage, family, and community.  Take note of what a difference it makes. Be sure to notice and acknowledge when she does share and don’t just reinforce the action.  Be sure to compliment her character growth in becoming more of a sharing person.

As parents we can’t afford to just be hearers or, in the case of some parents, mere tellers or repeaters of the word.  Our kids desperately need us to be doers.  Model it.  Live it out.  Walk the talk.  Or in the words of the Nike slogan, Just Do It!

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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