You just sit down for some much-needed relaxation, and in the next room you hear your children at each other – again. Sometimes you feel more like a hockey referee than a parent, right?
Are the children safe? If things turn physical, it’s time for an adult to step in and separate the children.
If there are mean words, name calling, out of control yelling or crying, it may be time for everyone to take a breather. Wait for 10-20 minutes, then allow them an opportunity to talk out their differences.
Allow the children to do the talking, while asking a few well-placed questions. “Can you tell your brother how you’re feeling?” (Help your child identify their feelings and use “I” statements.) “Can you share what just happened?” (Focus on the facts.) “Can you tell your sister what you think a fair solution is?” (Allow both children to offer solutions and share if the solutions make them feel happy, satisfied, or sad.)
Other questions we often ask in our Montessori classrooms are: “How did you feel when your friend did that?” “What do you need in order to feel better?” “Please let your friend finish talking before you talk.”
Don’t come up with a solution: allow them to talk it out and see if they can come to an agreement.
Don’t Force Apologies.
Apologies should be genuine and given when the child feels ready. You can encourage your child to think about the repercussions of their actions/words by saying, “I heard your sister say she was very sad and hurt when you _____. We love each other, and don’t want to hurt each other, do we?”
Often, we jump in without knowing the full story. As you listen to your children talk over what happened, try to be neutral – that means no sarcastic comments, no judgmental tone of voice or words, no unpleasant facial expressions! Your role is to offer a listening ear, a supportive presence, and comfort to both children.
Ask your child how they would feel if they were in their sibling’s place. Ask them to identify with how they are feeling.
Model What You Want to See.
Children pick up more on what we do than what we say. Use a calm, respectful tone when talking to family members. When conflict occurs, stay calm, take a break, then come back together to work out what happened.
Many Montessori classrooms have a designated “Peace Table” – a spot where children can go when they need to be alone, when they need to calm down, or when they want to peacefully work out a problem. This is a wonderful idea to incorporate into your home! Perhaps it’s a “Peace Nook” instead of a “Table”, but its purpose is to provide a child a safe and peaceful place to calm down, gather their thoughts, and work through problems. Typically there will be objects at the Peace Table like sand timers, kaleidoscopes, calming scents, sensorial bottles, or zen garden trays, which can aid the child in calming. Montessori also uses a “peace object”, like a stick, which can be passed from child to child. The child with the object has the opportunity to speak, and when they are done, they pass the object to the other person and allow them to have the opportunity to speak. Montessori also uses role-playing activities to help prepare a child to navigate conflict.