We can’t help ourselves, we come to the rescue. “Why don’t you go first, and then the other one can have a turn next?” “Why are you always picking on your brother?” “Why can’t you two just leave each other alone.”
When we step in like this, we actually make things worse. The children start to get irritated at us. They think that we take sides (usually in favor of the younger child), and the fighting can often escalate as the children are getting our attention, even if it is negative attention.
So what can we do instead?
We can be the mediator rather than judge and jury. A mediator listens to both sides but stays neutral.
“It looks like you were playing with that, and (to the other child) you’d really like a turn too.”
“You seem really upset. Will you each tell me what’s going on for you?”
Then, do nothing. PAUSE. See if the children can work it out. Perhaps remind them of a rule, “We share by taking turns. It will be available soon.” But stop yourself from solving the problem for them.
And what if there is a young baby? You’d be surprised at the solutions they come up with. I often give the example of Oliver and Emma both wanting to play with the same vehicle. Oliver would have been under two and Emma was just crawling. I stated something like, “Two kids and one vehicle. I wonder how you’ll solve the problem,” and then PAUSED. I proceeded to watch quietly as Oliver took the front wheels off the vehicle to give to Emma and they both played with half each. A far more creative solution than I would have come up with, and they solved the problem themselves.
And if they are hurting each other. We can still step in without blaming either of them. We can separate them – “you go to this side and you come to the other side” — and, once they are calm, they can solve the problem with us as a neutral mediator if needed.
Give it a try for a week and see how you go:
1. Be neutral;
2. Let them be heard; and
3. PAUSE to see if they can solve the problem themselves
You might enjoy visiting Simone’s blog at themontessorinotebook.com. We appreciate her granting permission to use this post. ¢
Simone Davies is the author of The Montessori Toddler and co-author of The Montessori Baby, comprehensive guides to raising toddlers and infants in a Montessori way. The books are based on her 15+ years’ experience working as an AMI Montessori teacher in Sydney and in Amsterdam. She also has a popular blog, instagram, and podcast The Montessori Notebook. She is also mother to two young adults. Simone currently runs parent-child Montessori classes in Amsterdam at her school Jacaranda Tree Montessori and is working on another book with Junnifa Uzodike, The Montessori Child for children from 3-12 years.
Finding Montessori helped her so much when raising her own children, and it’s now her passion to help other parents introduce these ideas in their homes too. She was looking to find a way to be with her kids that wasn’t about bossing, threatening, or bribing them. Or giving them free rein either. And she wanted them to have a positive experience of school, not just to pass tests, but to love learning.