What to do about Loooong Turns?

Girl Playing with Toys

Once again, we’re delighted to welcome author Heather Shumaker to the Positive Parenting Solutions blog for Part 2 of her 2-part series on the topic of sharing.  Enjoy!

f you’re tired of playing referee when your kids squabble over who gets a toy, look into a new sharing method based on turn taking.

(Please see Part 1 called: It’s OK Not to Share).

It doesn’t take long for kids to learn.

“My two- and four-year-olds ‘get’ taking turns,” said one mom.

“I tried turn taking with Cameron the other day, and he did hand the toy over joyfully, just like you said!” reported another parent.

Turn-taking based on when the child decides she’s “all done” is fair and simple. But what happens when your kid hogs the ball or decides to take a really looonnnnngggg turn?

When you put your child in charge of deciding when he’s all done, his turn might be five seconds, or it might be five hours. Isn’t that selfish, anti-social and unkind?

No. There’s no reason to worry. Long turns are OK. In fact, long turns should be respected just as much as short ones.

Kids take long turns primarily when they don’t feel safe.

Sometimes they hold on to an object just to have control, or to test an adult, and see if they really mean “you can have it until you’re done.”

Kids who don’t trust the system will tend to hog at first.

That’s what happened in one family when the mother initially tried turn-taking with her kids. “I tried waiting until Emma was all done, but she just hogged the toy. She wouldn’t let her sister have a turn, so I told her ‘Time’s up. You have to share it now.'”

In this case, Emma learned that her mother didn’t really mean it.

Try not to worry how long each child plays with a toy. Time doesn’t matter to kids. Fairness and consistency does.

Stick to your word “you can have the truck until you’re really done.”

Kids who have been forced to share in the past may take very long turns, but after they trust the system they begin to relax and take shorter turns.

Young kids crave repetition, too. Sometimes kids take long turns to practice a new skill or follow an intense interest. In that case, long turns show great attention span.

All the repetition may be boring to us (swinging and swinging, or pouring and pouring sand), but it’s exciting to them and these kids are working at an optimal level of learning.

It’s easy to see that long turns may be good for the child who’s playing, but what about the waiting child?

To help kids cope with the looooong wait, try this:

  • Write a note: “Ben gets the truck when Zach is done.”
  • Make a waiting list.
  • Waiting list for the swing
  1. Zach
  2. Emma
  3. Leo
  • Let kids be sad or angry. These feelings are OK. Help them identify and express their emotions appropriately, and then move on.
  • Encourage the waiting child to tell the other child how he feels. Kids who take long turns can learn that their actions impact others.
  • Modify your methods for crowded, public spaces.

Even long turns must end for lunch, bath, nap and other daily life, but when it’s playtime, make way for long turns.

“I’ve bought in fully to letting kids take long turns,” said a mother of two (who frequently watches her sister’s kids, too). “What a relief it is for me not to have to make any timing or sharing calls anymore!”

Words you can say

Protecting long turns
It’s OK to have a long turn.
– Yes, she’s having a long turn. When it’s your turn, you can have a long turn, too.
– Zoe doesn’t have to give it to you, but you can tell her how you feel.
– Tell her you’re tired of waiting! You can tell her you’ve been waiting all morning and it makes you mad.
– Let’s make a waiting list.
– Look – you’re next after Danny. Your name is right here at the top.

Sharing crowded or public space
– The climber is for everyone.
– There are lots of other kids here. Today we need to take fast turns.
– At home you can take a long turn. At the museum it’s different.
– Your turn’s done. If you want to do more, you need to line up and wait for another turn.

It's OK NOT to Share

Heather Shumaker is the author of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (Tarcher/ Penguin, 2012). Sharing and long turns are just two of the 29 “renegade rules” that appear in her book. To learn more, click here.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.