How to Teach Kids to Share

A few weeks ago my cousin was in town with his wife and son. The group of us went to brunch and then, as is a tradition in my family, we found a great place to have ice cream.

My cousin’s wife did not order anything; she told the baffled group that she would share a cone with their son. I was surprised that her two-year-old son shares his ice cream so well. As I am ever curious about behavior strategy, I asked what her secret was.

Her answer: Instead of asking him to share she told him that she needs to do a “safety lick” to ensure that the ice cream does not get messy.

This response made me laugh out loud. The “safety lick strategy” was a new one for me!

I watched as her son ate his ice cream cone. Every few licks he reached out his hand to offer his mom a safety lick. It was unbelievable to watch!

To test the strategy even further I asked her son if I could have some ice cream. He paused and looked at me with hesitation. Then I said, “What about a safety lick?” He responded by immediately handing me his ice cream cone!

My cousin and his wife had taught their son to share by simply changing the name of the process. Their son understood the importance and need for safety licks in the way that they described it. He didn’t have any problem complying in the context that his parents provided him.

If you're having trouble getting a desired behavior from your small being, then consider coming up with a new way to phrase it. (Click to Tweet) Explain exactly how and when you expect this new concept to happen. Consistently call the behavior by its new name. Before you know it your small being will have an immediate response to your requests.


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