Teaching Toddlers to Share

Teaching Toddlers to Share

By Kurt Bruner

"I want dis one!" insisted my then-2-year-old, Kyle.
"Wouldn’t you rather read this book?" I pleaded. After 20 consecutive readings of the same selection, I was ready for a change, even if he wasn’t.

"No. Dis one!"

Actually, I didn’t mind all that much. If he was going to insist on any book, one encouraging him to share is a good choice-advice every toddler can use. Who knows, I thought, he may even learn a lesson.

Did he ever. A few weeks later I overheard Kyle playing in the next room with another toddler. To my shock and delight, he used the word "share" in a playtime context. I could hardly believe my ears! After suffering through countless readings of "dis one," it appeared my investment was paying off.

I jumped out of my chair to observe firsthand my budding saint in action. As I peered around the corner, he declared "share" one more time in a very demanding tone while forcing the toy out of his playmate’s hands.

So much for the instructional value of "dis one."

It was at that moment that I was confronted with a sobering realization: Kyle, my beloved, sweet, firstborn son, the boy I expected to rear as a model of benevolent compassion and love to humankind, had inherited a sinful nature-from my wife. (Okay, okay-from my wife and me.)
Like it or not, each of us faces an unhappy reality as we embark upon the job of parenting. Put simply, your child – like mine – has a sinful nature. To make matters worse, he or she got that nature from us.

In fact, you and I inherited a sinful nature from our parents, and they from theirs, all the way back to a freshly eaten "apple" in the Garden. This is known in theological circles as original sin, and while the doctrine may no longer be popular, it is as real as ever. In fact, British writer G.K. Chesterton once joked that original sin is the one Christian doctrine proven by 4,000 years of recorded history.
This biblical view of my child’s nature should frame my priorities as I try to mold his view of life. For example:


  • I must teach him there is an absolute moral law that should guide our actions and by which we will all be judged.
    "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
  • I must teach him that, despite our best efforts, trying to be "good enough" is not good enough.
    "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags …" (Isaiah 64:6).
  • I must help him understand that the standard is perfection, and therefore we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
    "As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ " (Romans 3:10).
  • I must share the exciting news that Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to provide the only remedy for an evil heart.
    "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
  • And, of course, I must live and model God’s plan – knowing that the degree to which we live according to God’s design is the degree to which we find meaning and satisfaction in life.

    "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Obviously, taking a toy from a friend is no big deal, but it is a small reminder of a bigger problem: sin. I, like you, want to capture every possible moment to teach my children those truths that are crucial to healthy living and eternal joy. I don’t like acknowledging my sinful nature, but when I recognize my sinfulness, there is hope for forgiveness and remedy. Could anything be more important to "share" with my kids?