As parents we would like for our children to have a loving and harmonious relationship with each other and form a bond that would get them through life. Some sibling relationships are easy and others come with challenges. Personalities, ability to communicate, different interests and competition for parental attention all play a major role on the relationship between siblings.
As parents I think we need to observe and accept these differences in our children and our role should be to guide them through the difficult parts of their timeline and keep them safe. By putting pressure on our children to get along and be friends will only lead to more conflicts and disrespect. We also need to remember that the best way to teach children is by showing them and role modelling these behaviours. We shouldn’t expect our children to know how to coexist, but instead we should show them how we expect them to treat each other. Children learn by example, so it's important to model positive behaviour in our own relationships with our partner and other adults. When our children see us treating others with kindness and respect, they are more likely to emulate this behaviour in their own relationships with each other.
Montessori parenting is a child-centred approach to raising children that emphasises independence, respect and self-directed learning. When it comes to sibling relationships, Montessori parenting can offer a unique perspective and a set of strategies for helping children navigate challenging dynamics and build positive relationships with their siblings. Individual needs It is vital to focus on children’s individual needs. One of the key tenets of Montessori parenting is recognising and respecting the unique needs of each child. When sibling relationships are tough, it is important to recognise that each child may have their own perspective, feelings and needs. As parents we should take the time to listen to each child and understand their point of view, and try to find solutions that meet everyone's needs. Each child is unique, with their own strengths and challenges. It is important celebrate our children's individual differences, and encourage them to appreciate and respect each other's unique qualities. This can help build a sense of mutual admiration and support, and reduce feelings of competition and rivalry. Moreover, sibling rivalry can stem from a need for individual attention. Make sure each child has opportunities for one-on-one time with the parents, and encourage them to pursue their own interests and hobbies. This can help reduce feelings of competition and create a more harmonious home environment.
Collaboration and teamwork
In addition, fostering a sense of community within the home, will encourage children to work together on projects, activities and household tasks, such as cooking, gardening and cleaning. When siblings are struggling to get along, it can be helpful to involve them in practical tasks that require teamwork and cooperation. This can help them build important skills and work together in a positive way. Placing emphasis on involving them in decision-making processes that affect the entire family, will give them the sense of belonging in the family.
This can help build a sense of teamwork and cooperation, and reduce feelings of competition and rivalry. It is important to show children how to support each other and not criticize each other for mistakes but instead help each other to work towards a common goal. It can be as simple as we will all work together to tidy up the playroom in order to be able to enjoy our space better. It is a good idea as before to role model collaboration and time together. Daily family time should ideally include one meal as a family, teamwork (maybe home chores) and play. At the same time individual moments should also be established.
Even though collaboration and teamwork are important to foster sibling relationships, we shouldn’t forget the children as individuals. Allow children the independence they so much crave. Allow and even encourage children to make their own decisions and take ownership of their own activities and projects. This of course can happen within boundaries and ground rules set. This can help reduce feelings of jealousy and competition and promote a sense of mutual respect. Carving out time for the parent to spend with each individual child, doing something the child will enjoy can further reinforce this. It can be as simple as walking the dog, working on a craft the child wants or a cuddle before bedtime. Allowing children the independence and some of the decision-making can make a big difference in the dynamics of sibling relationships.
Furthermore, when sibling relationships are challenging, it can be tempting to step in and try to solve every problem. However, it's important to give children the space to work things out on their own and develop their own problem-solving skills. Encourage your children to communicate with each other, find solutions together, and take responsibility for their own actions. Teach your children to use problem-solving techniques to resolve their conflicts, rather than relying on the parent to intervene. Asking open ended questions about what happened, or what we could have done instead or, what we shall do next time, will guide them through the process of finding their own solution and working together to resolve the conflict. Teach them to express their feelings, listen to each other, and work towards finding a mutually agreeable solution. It is important to allow for time and full attention without judgment so that children have the opportunity to share their feelings and worries without repercussions.
Structure and routines
Providing structure and routine in your home can help the children navigate through the above. Structure and routine are a way to help children feel secure and confident in their environment. It can be helpful to establish clear routines and expectations for behaviour. This can help reduce conflicts and create a sense of predictability and stability in the home. Encourage your children to treat each other with kindness and respect, and establish consequences for negative behaviour such as name-calling or physical aggression. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries, and communicate them clearly to your children. It will not be ideal to use punishments and rewards, as they can create an unhealthy power dynamic. Instead, focus on using positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour. Praise your children when they collaborate well or work through disagreements constructively, and encourage them to continue building positive relationships with each other. Empathy is a key aspect of Montessori education, and it can be an effective tool for dealing with tough sibling relationships. Encourage your children to put themselves in each other's shoes and see things from each other's perspective. Also, to think about how their actions affect others, and help them learn how to show compassion and understanding towards their siblings. These can help them understand each other better and build a stronger relationship.
Remember, sibling relationships can be complex and challenging at times. Children need a supportive and positive environment where they can learn and grow at their own pace. Montessori parenting can offer a unique set of strategies for helping children build positive relationships with each other, but it's important to be patient, understanding and flexible as you navigate these dynamics. By focusing on individual needs, fostering collaboration, and encouraging empathy and understanding, your children feel valued and respected. Celebrating individual differences, and you can help your children build strong relationships with each other that will last a lifetime.
Big gem Maria is Little Gems’ lead teacher in our toddler class in Larnaca. Over the years Maria has been working with all ages from 1 years old to teenagers and has gained plenty of experience of role modelling positive behaviours encouraging respect for self and others, independence, self-leadership and a positive self-image. Please get in touch should you want to learn more about sibling rivalries leading to harmonious relationships: firstname.lastname@example.org