We are Done Sharing -- How Taking Turns has Changed our Family

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A couple months ago, I was beyond frustrated with my kiddos, because I felt like I was spending the majority of my day refereeing fights. As soon as I would start a task of any sort, I would be interrupted by screaming or crying from one kid or the other.

So, I stopped my task in order to get them through the conflict. 

To my credit, MOST of the time, I remained calm and worked with them to resolve the it.

But, seriously, if you could only get one bowl washed before a new fight began, anyone would tend to lose their cool, right?! 

I'm human.

It even got to the point that I would just ignore it and tell them to "work it out." Guess what?! Many times, after a few minutes of screaming and pushing and throwing, they eventually worked it out... or big sis just bossed her way to the "solution." Whatever. They were quiet, and I could finish the dishes.

Well, when you start ignoring your kids, there's a problem. 

So, as usual, I researched solutions on how to raise siblings who will be civil to each other and maybe even like each other someday.

I was attracted to Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham because the description boasted about "self regulated sharing." SWEET! I thought, that means leave them alone to figure things out. Seriously. I thought that. I was excited for validation on leaving them be to fight it out.

You can probably guess, that's not really what self regulated means. *Sigh*

I appreciate this book for a few main reasons.

1) It uses the word "coaching" as the way to get kids through conflict. 
Coaching resonates with me. I am a coach at heart. I coached dance for several years. I love drawing the best out of people. When I think of my time spent helping to resolve conflict as coaching (rather than refereeing), it gives me a ton more motivation and patience to stick with it.

2) It reinforced what I am already doing is good and really DOES take that much time.
About a year or so ago, I went to a parenting seminar. The biggest lesson I took from it was that I need to RUTHLESSLY CONTROL MY EMOTIONS. If I can model calm so will my children. I'm human; I lose it sometimes, but concentration on MY emotions has made me a better parent for sure! This book teaches the same kind of principles. Plus, stresses the amount of time it truly takes. There WILL be plenty of days that dishes don't get done, blog posts don't get written, or I can't watch Fuller House (admit it, you love it too), because that time will be spent coaching your children through conflict.

3) It has changed the way we "share" in our home.
Dr. Markham gives plenty of great background and research to support that kids don't really get the concept of "sharing" when it comes to kids personal possessions. She also explains how forced sharing (for example setting timers to determine the length of a turn, or just flat out taking a toy away to give it to another child) is not teaching kids joyful giving. 

Plus, when we force one child to give up a toy because another child is crying (which is a big trigger for me), we are actually teaching the crying child that crying enough or throwing a fit will get them what they want! Duh... why did that not occur to me?!

So, some changes were made in our home.

Now instead of sharing, we stress taking turns. Rules about taking turns are:

1) The person who gets the toy first decides how long their turn is, but turns can not last over night.

2) When friends are over, we take short turns so that everyone can enjoy the toys.

3) If you don't want anyone else to play with your toy, you need to put it in a special place. (Right now, Gwenyth has a special Lego truck she built in her play kitchen freezer) : )

The first three days implementing this sharing strategy were well... REALLY effing HARD. I got nothing done. It was pretty constant coaching, but I remained steadfast and patient. I know it's a big change for them. 

Reuben had the worst time, because he was crushed when I wouldn't convince Gwenyth to give him the toys or set a timer. That meant lots of crying (which is so hard for me to endure), but he learned fairly fast that no amount of crying or yelling would get him the toy faster.

Since those first few days, things have improved drastically! When there is conflict over toy sharing, now it takes a simple reminder of the rules which I can do from the sink (or computer or TV). It's gratifying to watch them take turns and hear them say, "here you go, Reuben" or "you can have it now, Sister" instead of them throwing the toys at each other when the timer goes off or I suggest having "compassion."

I'd confidently say that my "coaching time" has gone down by 40%. I didn't realize that sharing was such an issue until it wasn't an issue!

But, now I'm dealing with the reality of other parents in a culture where we seem super hyper sensitive to sharing. I know that I am prone to rip a toy out of my childrens' hands in the name of sharing with other kids. It's what every good parent wants their child to do, but it's all very forced most of the time.

I am thankful for one playgroup that was open to the suggestion of these rules for our play group. However, there are plenty of other times with other families that I have caught myself reverting to forced sharing. Who wants to be the parent to suggest "what I'm doing is better than what you're doing..." ? Do you know what I mean?

I try to find opportunity to model it when their child has the toy and my child wants it. I simply say to my child, "they had the toy first, and they get to decide how long their turn is" in hopes that the other parent will understand my reasoning for not forcing my child to give up a toy to theirs.

What do you do in situations like that? When parenting strategies differ? It's hard for this momma who hates any kind of conflict and fears judgement. I know I'm not alone : )


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much!! I really appreciate any sharing : )

  2. I like so many thoughts of this concept but sometimes they all go to shit when we do play dates lol!

    1. Word. Trying to incorporate new concepts while with someone else's kids is usually a disaster.

  3. I have never heard of this method before, but it's certainly worth a try!

  4. Such great ideas! My boys are constantly fighting, and I try to be calm, but I lose it sometimes too. Coaching is such a great idea. We've been doing the taking turns idea for a while, but it still gets hard.

  5. For sure... it's never going to be perfect. There are still days when I revert to yelling too much. It's a CONSTANT battle to remind ourselves to stay calm!