Posts Tagged ‘ Sharing ’

Parenting Principle #6: Focusing On Others

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on encouraging a focus on others.

Babies are social by nature. They want to interact with people. They want to be with people. And as they mature, they start to develop a capacity to be oriented to the needs of others.

During the toddler years, you can begin to encourage a sense of focusing on the needs of other people. There are research studies which show that if an adult drops something, a toddler is inclined to pick it up – and give it back to them. While they may not always want to share their toys instinctively, you can begin to send the message that someone else may want a turn too. And you can orient them to the pleasure that giving to others gives to them, so that it eventually gives pleasure to themselves.

The prominent pediatrician and author, Dr. Harvey Karp, suggests a technique called “playing the boob” with toddlers. If you act silly with them – and even act like you don’t know what you are doing – they will step in and help you. You can reverse the power structure and give them a sense of what it’s like to be the one who can do for others. An older sibling can learn to do for a younger sibling. Time with friends can be treated as opportunities to be nice hosts and to do things for them to help them feel welcome.

As children get older, you can encourage empathy and understanding. Even when celebrating a victory, you can reference how the other team feels. Sound strange or inconsistent with parenting for success? Hardly. People who do for others – people who know how to get into others’ heads and determine their needs – are often the most successful people. Focusing on others is not just a nice way to live, it’s also a great skill to have that pays dividends in life.

More in This Series

 Make a chore chart for your little ones. 

Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do

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‘Hot’ And ‘Cold’ Cognition In Kids: Another Take On The Sharing Debate

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The recent debate on whether sharing in preschool should be mandated or left in part to kids to work out for themselves brings up a related issue: the difference between hot and cold cognition in kids. 

Cold cognition can be thought of as processing information in a “factual” way without regard to emotional or social cues. We can try to teach kids “rules” about sharing – when you should share, when you don’t have to share, why sharing is a good thing. While this type of knowledge is important to acquire, bear in mind that it can be rather abstract.

Which brings us to hot cognition. Hot cognition is the type of processing that directly integrates social and emotional factors with that “knowledge” that comes about via cold cognition. So while you can tell a preschooler that it is important to share – or that they don’t have to share – it’s different when they are in the moment interacting with another child, and they have to deal with their own emotions, the other kid’s emotions, and the social situation.

Let’s take two concrete examples. First, you have two kids in a preschool in a morning meeting with a teacher. They are told about the “rules” of sharing. Second, they then  go off  and one kid starts playing with a toy. The other kid comes over and wants to play with it too. In that situation, it’s not just about the “rules” – and it’s hard to know what will happen next. Maybe the kid doesn’t want to share it. The other one gets frustrated. They have a little exchange about it. Or … maybe the kid with the toy wants to share it. Maybe the other kid asks if they can both play with it. Maybe they are friends and that happens. Maybe they don’t get along well and it doesn’t happen.

The thing is, the outcome isn’t the point. The process is the point. The process of processing all of this stuff – the rules, the emotions, the relationship – is the stuff of real social, emotional, and cognitive development. Kids need a chance to try out their social “rules” as they arise in real-time interaction and get integrated with emotion. Adults should be at the ready to help them sort through the issues and offer informed support. But without the chance to experience ‘hot’ cognition all that ‘cold’ cognitive processing becomes somewhat meaningless. That’s why it’s really important to let kids experience social interactions and help teach themselves the rules of play and sharing – because that’s how they learn how to interact with each other.

Kids Playing via


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Should Sharing – Or Not Sharing – Be Mandated In Preschool?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Should young kids be told that they must always share? Should they be told that they never have to share? Or should they be encouraged to learn how to try to work things out themselves? 

The answer from decades of research on preschoolers is … they should get experience in trying to try to work things out themselves, with good guidance from adults.

To get an expert perspective on this, I contacted Dr. Melanie Killen, who is Professor of Human Development, Professor of Psychology (Affiliate), and the Associate Director for the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the University of Maryland.  She is the author of Children and Social Exclusion: Morality, Prejudice and Group Identity (2011), co-editor of Social Development in Childhood and Adolescence: A Contemporary Reader (2011), and serves as the Editor of the Handbook on Moral Development (2006, 2013). Dr. Killen has a distinguished record of conducting seminal research on the social, moral, and cognitive development of preschoolers (as well as older children), and as such is well positioned to offer a perspective on sharing in the preschool years. Below is her take on a few key issues.


Yes. Sharing toys and resources is a fundamental aspect of early childhood social interactions that promotes the development of social competence. In fact, children who learn how to resolve conflicts about sharing in constructive ways (e.g., through negotiation and bargaining) are more liked by their peers and better adjusted in school contexts than are children who resort to aggressive strategies (such as insistence on one’s own way). What children learn from conflicts about sharing toys under optimal conditions is how to bargain, negotiate, and apply principles of fairness to their peers.


A policy that mandates either sharing or “no sharing” is a problem from the start because it removes the opportunity for children to understand the principles that underlie sharing behavior.  These principles include the fair distribution of resources – how do we share resources (or toys) in such a way as to treat others with mutual respect?  This involves explaining to children the conditions in which not sharing toys is being unfair to another child (“If you play with all of the toys then he won’t have any to play with”). However, it’s also important to recognize that there are also conditions in which not sharing toys is viewed as legitimate, such as claims to ownership (“This is her special birthday present and she doesn’t want it to get broken”), or previously agreed upon rules about the use of resources (“She had the toy yesterday so today it’s your turn to use the toy”).


The bottom line is that a unilateral policy takes away from the learning opportunities for young children through which they teach each other what makes it wrong to refrain from sharing (“You had it all morning and I didn’t get to play with it so can I play with it now?”).  Adults need to facilitate the opportunities for children to discuss, negotiate, and interact about how to play with toys, especially in early childhood when the stakes are still low.  Learning how to share toys, which includes the recognition of ownership claims is a fundamental social skill that is related to constructing notions of equality, fair treatment, and mutual respect.

Children Playing via

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