My son never shares anything he eats/enjoys with us.

Of course, its not that we want that food item, but its just to teach him to share things with others.

I have already tried:

  • Tit for Tat: doing the same thing to him (I didn't share my ice cream with him)
  • Doing opposite; meaning even if he did not share I shared my ice cream with him.

Inspite of that, he is still not share things with us or his little sister.

Should I be worrying?

Please help.

  • 1
    Is it just food? How about toys? How does he play with friends if he doesn't share toys? Turns? Attention? Does he share your attention with his sibling? Teacher's attention in school? How about stuff he cares about less than ice cream? Does he have any other interpersonal skill problems? This is a pretty advanced age for a child to not be sharing. There is a lot more detail here needed. Aug 8, 2017 at 14:20
  • It includes everything including food, toys, etc. He does not like to share his toys with his 2 year old sister. He is shy in general. But gets along well with known people.
    – meetpd
    Aug 8, 2017 at 16:30

3 Answers 3


Tit for tat won't work. If you're teaching anything, it would only be a lesson in how to be petty. Doing the opposite might work, but you shouldn't do it for the wrong reasons.

People share things because they have a desire to share them not because they feel obligated to. Feeling obligated to share something often makes some people want to rebel and do the opposite. Sharing is one of those things that comes with teaching empathy. It must be taught by example over explicit action. Don't force the situation.

For example, you mention doing the opposite where he denies giving you ice cream but you still share yours. What prompted this? Did you ask for his ice cream and when he said "no" you said "well fine, you can have some of mine if you want." This isn't teaching him sharing. This is teaching him that you think you are a better, kinder person than he is.

A better situation: Have a third party eat ice cream with you (daddy? mommy? sibling? family friend?) and have that third party share their ice cream with you, unprompted. Accept graciously and say thank you. Show happiness on your face. Don't keep looking at your son like he is going to do the same thing because he probably won't. Showing him these examples of sharing rather than forcing it on him is more likely to make a lasting impression. Continue to do this over and over with all sorts of other things to. Don't tell him that sharing is kind and makes people feel nice. Show him.

At the end of the day, if something is his and he doesn't want to share it, he shouldn't feel obligated. If it's a community toy or if it's a potluck style dinner, yes, he is obligated to share. But if you have given him something and told him it was his, let him decide if and when who gets to eat, partake, or play with whatever it is.

  • 1
    Food that can only be consumed by sharing is a very good option. We have from time to time a family dinner in the form of a entrevero, which is normally served on a single bowl and eaten using toothpicks or individual forks, with bread or fries as a side dish. This type of meal is an excellent way to show how to share without making a fuss.
    – T. Sar
    Aug 9, 2017 at 16:37

As I believe I posted elsewhere on this site--I believe my kids learned generosity and to share easily precisely because they were not asked to share too early. A quick anecdote: My brother and sister-in-law had children the same age as mine, and they emphasized sharing all the time. When my eldest was about 4, he and one of his cousins were in the back of the car together, and his cousin said that he was thirsty. Owen grabbed his sippy cup and handed it to his cousin. My brother-in-law was astounded and asked what the secret was to getting my kids to share. I firmly believe it grew out of the process that he experienced at his daycare.

Both of my sons attended a daycare center from ages 1 to 4 that had a specific policy about "sharing." Their logic was that sharing requires the understanding that other people are different than oneself, and have thoughts, feelings, needs that are not the same as what the child him/herself is feeling. Sharing doesn't make any sense until you understand that other people are different from yourself, which leads to developing a sense of empathy. These concepts are actually part of a developmental process that children go through--usually during their infant/toddler/pre-school years. There is alot of scientific literature about this--see this article as an example).

Keeping in mind that all children develop at different rates and may or may not meet the listed milestones at the ages given, we can assume that your son is still pretty new to the concept of empathy and is still learning that if his tummy is happy with ice cream, doesn't necessarily mean that your tummy is also happy with ice cream. The approaches you are taking with your son are all based on his firmly understanding empathy--and he is probably still an "empathy beginner".

So, with all of this in mind, the way the daycare handled "sharing" situations was that if one child wanted a toy that one of my sons was playing with, a teacher would intercede by saying to my son, "Jake would like to play with that ball. How much longer would you like to play with it--two minutes or three minutes?" Once my son decided on a period of time, that time frame was adhered to rigorously. If my son needed a diaper change during the "waiting period" the toy was set aside for him because it was still "his time." I think the concept that this instilled in my children was that it was easy to share, because there was no sense of scarcity; i.e. they never thought "If I give this to someone else, I might never get it back again." Also, they clearly understood the rules, and trusted that they would work in their favor the next time they wanted something that someone else was playing with.

I know that your son is quite a bit older than my children were when they learned this skill, but I still think it can be implemented in his life. Try not to force him to share, but continue to model sharing behavior. If he is playing with friends and they start to argue about a toy, explain to them that you don't have enough of that toy for each of them, so rather than make one person feel sad that they don't have the toy, help the two of them find something that they can play with together and take away the toy that is causing the problem (it is likely to lead to some anger at the moment, but because it is enforced "fairly," in my experience that anger is likely to subside more quickly).

Continue to provide him with opportunities to understand that things that belong to him really are his to do with as he wishes. I think it is this concept of abundance (enough time with a toy, enough of a yummy food, enough of whatever to fulfill his wants) that allows children to offer to share their things with others.


Well I would say you can try reading "It's Okay Not to Share" by Heather Shumaker. It's an enlightening approach to this very topic.

In my house, things in common areas are common use items with few exceptions. So if a child comes over & plays with "your" truck that is in the common area, then that is fine. If you are playing with that truck & that child wants it, you don't have to give it up. Realistically, any toy that child touches while in my house is being shared with them. Same goes for when my child visits your home. But I do not make them share all things. An adult may ask me to use my cell phone, but I do not feel obligated to say yes to that. I can decide. Likewise my children do not have to share all things with anyone, even me, even if I want them to. It is their decision. I also have things in common areas & I expect & anticipate the kids will touch those if they want to, such as a blanket I brought out from my room because I was chilly, etc. It might technically be mine but I don't expect to be asked to use it if I left it right there. Exceptions would be personal items for us all, like the tablets my kids use for school, my cell phone & laptop, etc. Although those items are not supposed to be left out, it happens.

Now if you have a child that never ever wants to share anything with anyone, I would be alarmed. I do think likely though, if you think about what all types of sharing there are, you will find your child does share regularly. Do other people ever use things that actually belong to him, such as games, toys, etc? If he was watching a movie & you came in, would he gladly let you snuggle under the blanket he is using with him? If the answers to those types of things is no, then I'd be more concerned. Otherwise, I would say that we have to ask if his level of sharing is more or less than what you anticipate seeing out of an adult to adult interaction. If you asked a friend the same thing, would they say yes? I honestly can't see that I would ask an adult to share their ice cream with me. I think sometimes we ask things of kids because we make up different social rules on what we are willing to ask of them.

  • Sharing ice cream must be a cultural thing. If I asked a family member if I could have a taste of their ice cream, the answer would be, "Sure". But we share other food as well (e.g. at restaurants, we order our own plates and some to be shared.) But I agree with you; he probably shares a great many things. Aug 9, 2017 at 11:25
  • 1
    @anongoodnurse it could well be cultural for sure. I would also suspect that if I came to visit you, and you asked for a taste of mine & I said I'd rather not, you likely wouldn't suddenly think I have a sharing problem, but rather a personal preference. :P
    – threetimes
    Aug 9, 2017 at 11:38

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