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When I was growing up, kids learned to share the natural way. Even though families were larger, houses were smaller. We had to share bedrooms and bathrooms. Parents and kids managed to make do with a single TV set, which was fine, since there were only a few channels. And when it came to treats, "supersize" hadn't been invented yet, so we divvied up our regular little portions.

Today kids aren't given as many opportunities to figure out that sharing's a necessary evil. But it's a critical skill for them to learn, so how can we make them better at it?

This is the tough part. You can't make kids share. The more you try, the less they'll want to do it. (Or worse: They won't share on purpose because it's a guaranteed way for them to get your attention.)

And even if you figure out how to get your oldest child to share  -- fairly easy, given that there's no real competition at home  -- your second child, like mine, may be pathologically possessive. Whatever anyone else has, my toddler wants. And because she has more sound effects than words, she grinds away like a blender full of ice until she gets it.

It may be tempting to give in, but that's not the answer. With the help of other moms, I've figured out a few things that work, especially for the sharing hot spots that affect kids at each stage:

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of It Could Happen to You: Diary of a Pregnancy and Beyond.