At some point in our childhood, we have heard from our parents and elders that sharing is caring. But how do you teach a young child to share? How do you instil the habit of sharing, especially if the child is young? Another important question: At what age does one start teaching a child?
I repeatedly emphasised in my previous columns that children often imitate the behaviour of their parents. They watch, observe, and implement. Hence, to teach your child the importance of sharing, which I think should start from a young age, parents need to show it through their actions, they need to be role models. Be it something as basic as sharing food, materialistic things, or something as cerebral as love. Children will watch their parents and learn.
Parents need to create an environment that will enable the child to learn. Forcing the child to act as per your liking isn’t going to work. Children need to be taught in a way that is not forced. A fun way of teaching the child could be by playing a game by making teams where you take turns to do a certain thing. Engage in activities that involve sharing, so it becomes easier to make them understand.
If there are siblings at home or other members, it becomes easier to teach the child what sharing is. Like you can simply tell the child to share chocolate that s/he might have received from someone or their favourite dish or even a toy. Divide and share — the child needs to learn this. I understand that in a nuclear family set-up, this might become challenging, especially if the child doesn’t have a sibling.
Children are possessive about their things and also their loved ones. They don’t understand the concept of sharing — sometimes even with their siblings or parents. They’ll fight, throw tantrums, and refuse to listen. Gently pacify the child and take him/her away from the environment. Don’t shout because aggression complicates situations. Make the child feel comfortable and then try again. Of course, the change won’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. So you gotta keep trying all the time.
It also depends on the child’s age and when you want to teach the concept of sharing. But I feel the child should know from a young age that sharing is a good thing and s/he cannot keep everything to oneself. Communication plays a major role here. Talk to the child, calmly, in whichever language or whatever s/he understands.
With my daughter, as I had previously mentioned, on every occasion we make it a point to share our happiness and joy by donating to orphanages. So, she understands the concept of sharing. Today, even before we initiate the conversation, she asks what we are sending to the orphanage.
She’s always been the only child in the family — of course, now she has a baby sister. So it was a challenge for me to teach her. But we instilled the habit in her from a young age. We taught her to share toys and food with her friends. However, she doesn’t like to share her parents with anyone! So mama and papa cannot hold another baby in front of her; she still gets jealous. But where materialistic things are concerned, she is the most giving person and doesn’t hesitate to share with people around her.
Her grandparents too played a crucial role in this. They would tell her how sharing is a good thing. So, when you share you will make more friends. It’s a good concept and parents should talk to their children and start at an age when they develop understanding capabilities.
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a fashion and jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)