My children are 23-months apart, and I doubt either one of them could fathom a life without their “other half”.  This means they love fiercely, they protect fiercely, and they fight fiercely.

Sharing is a big project in our house, and we are always working on ways to promote peaceful playing.  When they can’t seem to work it out on their own, I remind them of one of the 3 Rs of sharing.

1)  Remove.  Sometimes the best option is to remove the offending toy or object.  In my house, that is always the Leapster handheld game.  For some reason it is a sore spot for each of them; neither will move on or give in without that game.  Removing the game teaches them consequences:  if you cannot work together to come up with a solution, both of you lose your turn.  It also eliminates the potential for playing favorites or feeling the victim.

2)  Refrain.  Sometimes we get lucky and we see a whole argument unfold before us.  It is clear who came in and descended on a toy the other had already claimed. I take these moments to explain to one child that the other had it first and they must simply wait their turn.  I know too well that this works better with peers than siblings, but it is still a useful lesson of which to remind them.

3)  Reframe.  On occasion, one child won’t mind too much if the other takes the toy they were playing with right out of their hand.  Since this isn’t a great strategy for surviving the real world, I always ask them to “make a trade” instead.  Present the other child with another option and if they prefer the new toy, they willingly give up the old one.  Sometimes my daughter decides to get picky and my son has to go through a few options before the trade is effectuated.  It’s all about reframing one another’s wants so that each party comes away happy; the art of negotiation.

Siblings have a bond that is more complex than your average relationship, so don’t feel stumped if your techniques for teaching them how to share appear to fall on deaf ears.  It’s your task to give them the tools to cope with sharing and consistently reinforce the importance of respect, patience, and empathy.  When you see them use these techniques without needing a reminder, you will smile knowing they are learning real life skills in their own living room.

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