Children fight, argue, and even hit each other... But they also reconcile, love each other, adore each other... In this note, the issue of discussions, fights and conflicts between children will be observed, from the level of the first 6 years of life, with the approach of the Montessori philosophy.
This is a subject that worries many mothers and it is a subject that often comes up in my Montessori at Home workshops.
On these types of occasions it is common to doubt, it is difficult for us to know how to act, what position to take, how to be fair, how to appease, how to show them the path of peace...
Many times things are better understood when they show us what we should NOT do and I think this is one of those cases. First of all, we are going to see 5 things that we should not do in the face of children's fights and/or conflicts, then we are going to see what role to take as adults, how to make children understand the magnitude of their actions and how to help children who tend to adopt a position of inferiority in the face of conflicts. Are you ready?
Before beginning I want to leave you with a very inspiring phrase from Dr. Montessori on this topic:
5 THINGS WE SHOULD NOT DO BEFORE CHILDREN'S ARGUMENTS AND/OR FIGHTS
1- Judging the one who hits: Putting labels on children in any sense is to generalize their punctual and even normal behaviors, according to their age.
To demonize the child who hits is to make him believe that he is truly bad. If they tell me and repeat that I am bad, I will end up believing that I really am and I will act as such.
As things are better understood with practical examples, let's go there. One child hits another: “Hey! you're bad, it doesn't stick. You behave very badly." That is judging and generalizing.
2- Giving sentences: This is something very typical. Adults believe that, since we are more experts and we are more driven, we have the right to give sentences and establish rewards and punishments for each behavior of the child.
An example: Two children arguing over an object. The mother of one of them arrives and says “take it honey, take it, she has had it for a long time.
Now it's your turn.” Why do we give these sentences? Giving judgments is a way of preventing children from learning to resolve conflicts on their own.
The one who is harmed in the sentence feels hopelessly bad and develops negative feelings towards the child who is favored because he sees it as a gesture of predilection by the adult towards the other.
3- Force to ask for forgiveness: Forgiveness is a simple word, and words without facts remain empty. Forgiveness is the word that names repentance.
Forgiveness is something rather diplomatic that we adults use to redirect conflict situations and show our regret.
Before forcing a child to ask for forgiveness, which in the end is just a word, we must make the child understand the consequences of his actions so that the feeling of repentance can really be awakened in him.
If the child does not understand the dimension of his actions and does not observe any consequence, forgiveness makes no sense for the child.
What's more, it can be a double-edged sword, because I learn that with a word I amend all my actions. Also, remember that children value their happiness more than their pride.
They fight but after a few minutes they reconcile and forget without the need for a pardon.
4- Punish arguments and/or fights: This is also something very typical and a way to resolve the conflict that seems very fair to us.
"Since you're hitting each other over this lollipop, I'm taking the lollipop from you and I'm also leaving the two of you without going to the park so that you can reflect on your act."
Punishments impose, but do not teach. Punishments work in the short term, but in the long term the child learns that conflicts are resolved in an authoritative way.
Children have an absorbing mind and everything they experience in their childhood will shape their adult personality in one way or another.
If we want adults capable of resolving conflicts in a serene, peaceful way, capable of negotiating, we must give them an example to look at.
5- Intervene early: Sometimes we don't even give them a chance to resolve conflicts on their own.
In the park, even when a child is going to interact with another, many mothers intervene immediately without the conflict even taking place, but they decide.
"Do not take the motorcycle from the child that is not yours." "Don't get on there, there are other children." “Bring the bike, they are going to take it away from you and then you cry” “Return this toy that is not yours”.
We should give children the opportunity to get themselves out of their conflicts and not see conflicts before they have occurred. Children are not problematic but we teach them with our actions and our example to be possessive.
THE POSITION OF THE ADULT BEFORE CHILDREN'S CONFLICTS
Our position in the face of a fight or an argument between two or more children should not be that of judges. We should only act as arbitrators, as mere mediators who encourage dialogue and mediate so that children learn to negotiate peacefully, taking turns, to respect, to express their feelings...
The role of the adult should be to arbitrate a post-conflict negotiation and try to ensure that it develops peacefully and taking turns.
It is about children negotiating, expressing their feelings and resolving conflicts on their own.
Just as the referee shows a red card when he sees kicks or compromising situations, adults must always ensure the safety of children and intervene in this type of situation, first removing them physically.
Our mission will be to try to find calm in each of them, accompanying, listening, naming their feelings, empathizing, looking into their eyes, offering our love, understanding and making the child understand the consequences of their actions.
HOW DO I MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTS?
A little kiss? Ask for forgiveness? How do we make them understand the consequences of their actions? In order for them to understand that their actions have consequences, we must:
1- Name the children's feelings: Both their own feelings and the feelings of the second in discord.
2- Repair their actions: The best way to make the child understand the magnitude of their actions is to try to repair them. The kiss or forgiveness do not repair, but a band-aid could. Even if there is no real injury, the bandages can help them understand that they have caused damage and that it must be repaired. So, for example, if a toy has broken in the fight, they can try to fix it.
WHAT IF THE CHILD USUALLY HAS A POSITION OF INFERIORITY BEFORE CONFLICTS?
This is another of the issues that parents are very concerned about. We have already seen how to make the child who has hit understand the consequences of aggressive acts.
But many parents worry when their children, or one of the siblings at home always tends to take a position of inferiority in the face of the conflict.
How do we help them? The first thing is not to instill in them an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. "You defend yourself and if they hit you, they hit you."
If we teach them that we will only generate more violence. In these cases we must be especially alert.
When the children are calm, we can propose a group game in which the child takes center stage or leads the way. It is a way of giving him this role and getting him used to it in game situations.
Of course, we should always encourage them to express their feelings, name them and learn to dialogue and negotiate so that they balance their positions and there are no dominant and submissive.