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Raising a Sharer

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Frank Heckers

Q: My 4-year-old won't share her toys with her friends during playdates unless I force her to. How can I teach her better manners?

A: The problem lies not in manners but in her sense of ownership. That's why one of the best ways to encourage sharing at this age is not to force it, according to Stephen W. Garber, Ph.D., co-author of Good Behavior. Instead, says Dr. Garber, help your child feel that she's in control of her toys-and the decision to share.

Allow your child to put her name on special toys that she doesn't have to share. Before a playdate, let her choose which toys she will share, and ask her to put the other ones away. "Acknowledging your child's sense of ownership helps her feel that when she does share, she's doing a good deed rather than just surrendering to your demands," says Dr. Garber.

"With this kind of support, most children naturally become more generous by age 5 or 6," he adds.