One of the first lessons kids learn from parents and teachers is to share. So, from preschool on up, kids often give away snacks or offer friends crayons, if only because it is the right thing to do. But of course, feeling rewarded emotionally by giving makes us more inclined to do it again, psychologists note. And do you get that reward if you're sharing because we feel obligated to do so? Or do you only get that feel-good payoff if you're sharing voluntarily? Researchers, whose report is published in Frontiers in Psychology, decided to investigate this question by studying preschoolers in China, and their findings are all sorts of eye-opening.
Lead researcher Dr. Zhen Wu and colleagues observed 3- and 5-year-old children who were split up into two groups. The first group shared stickers with their peers voluntarily, and the second group did it, because they felt obligated to. The researchers studied the kids' facial expressions to measure their happiness. As it turned out, both 3- and 5-year-olds were happier when they gave the stickers away of their own accord versus keeping them to themselves.
Of course it's pretty obvious that young children are going to be less psyched to give something away when they're being forced to do so. There's also the fact that even if they aren't being told to share, they may still feel pressure to do so. Still, this study may be helpful to parents and preschool teachers who want to promote sharing among L.O.s. After all, learning that giving makes you feel good is bound to encourage kids to do it again and again!