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January's La Tela: siblings conflicts

Sent on Jan 24, 2022

If you ever wonder if my kids argue with each other, the answer is YES, OF COURSE! On Instagram you often see that hey are patient, kind, generous and that they play very well together independently for hours. It's all true! But they're normal children and they also fight: today I would like to tell you about our experience on how we handle conflicts between siblings and I'll leave you 4 ideas to solve conflicts in a healthy way.

Sometimes conflicts arise out of jealousy, but in our family we haven't experienced that so far. When I was pregnant with Emily, I got Oliver involved in the pregnancy, even taking him to ultrasounds. We read books about what happens when somebody becomes a big brother; we listened to him and always answered his questions honestly about how babies are born… I think all this involvement helped him not to feel jealous.

When Emily was born, we often used to leave them alone for a few minutes every day: even though Oliver was only 22 months old, we trusted him and wanted him to feel capable of being alone with his little sister. Of course, I was often around  and when Oliver was too rough, I tried to not get angry, and instead I showed him how he could do it so that Emily would like it, too.

In addition, I tried to offer Oliver exclusive and quality time by taking him on a bike ride or to a show at the theater, and when the three of us were together, I gave more attention to him than to Emily.

I think that, in our family, working mainly on avoiding jealousy was the starting point to avoid fights: however, when they do have conflicts, we offer them tools to resolve them.

4 ideas

Here are 4 ideas to help children create a healthy relationship with each other and manage conflicts peacefully.

  • Don't share toys. I think there is a lot of confusion around this: forcing to share toys does not teach generosity, but rather to be protective of their own things. From an early age, we taught Oliver and Emily to take turns: if one is using a toy, the other waits; this also promotes respect for the work (play) of others. As in a Montessori school where there is only one material of each type, we do not buy double books and toys. It's a process, of course: at the beginning I was more involved in the game to make sure turns and concentration were respected.
  • Trust them. When my children argue, I try to intervene as little as possible, but as much as needed. If they come complaining, but I think they can solve it, I express my trust and suggest a solution: "I'm sure you can solve it yourself. Have you tried to ask nicely?". If the discussion has turned into physical aggression, I intervene by inviting to stay calm and breathe, using two tools: mediation and the peace table.
  • Being a mediator and not a judge. It means that I don't take a side and don't decide who is right. Instead, I ask them questions: What happened? (analysis); what did you feel? (emotion vocabulary); how do you think this made the other person feel? (empathy); how do you think we might react next time? (problem solving).
  • Montessori peace table. Mediation can happen anywhere, but sometimes having a dedicated space at home helps. The peace table is a small table with two or three chairs (or a small mat in the corner) where we can meet after an argument. The adult is the mediator and asks the questions (but with our example, children will soon take on this role) and the children take turns speaking. If you want to know more about this amazing tool, I invite you to read my post "Montessori peace table".

Want more?

If you want to read more about conflict solving, you might like these two old posts on my blog:

Montessori peace table

Two ways to solve sibling conflicts (only one works in the long term)

Cobweb thought

Last, but not least: this doesn't just work between siblings, it underlies any relationship between children (and adults?). When we are with other people and our child is arguing with a friend or hitting them or pushing them, I know it's difficult. I know that in front of other people we feel that we must say all the sentences of the traditional education we were raised with, to show the other parent that "we have it under control" and that "we are in charge", but I think it's important to disassociate ourselves from this mindset and focus on what really teaches our children.

Yelling or punishing does not teach anything: it doesn't teach to not do it again, and it doesn't teach to do better next time; a threat to not go to the friend's house anymore is empty, because you know it won't happen. Welcoming emotions, mediating, being the children's interpreter… that's what works!

In a conflict between children, our priority is the children, not people's opinions.

Happy Tuesday and see you on La Tela.


PS. Speaking of jealousy when a new member of the family arrives, if you are looking for something to explain how (almost all) babies are conceived and born, please take a look at my online guide for parents: How babies are made, which includes a printable book for kids.