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December 14, 2021

Montessori Parenting - When Sibling Relationships are Tough

Some sibling relationships come easy and some come with a lot more challenges. As a Montessori parent, I think my role is to learn to be comfortable with these different relationships, accept they are on their own timeline while keeping everyone safe. Putting pressure on the kids to get along, to be friends, or otherwise want to be together will only lead to more conflict, and feelings of disrespect. We can't know exactly why the relationship feels difficult for them, but we can help support them in their feelings, keep everyone safe, and give it time without our adult desires interfering. 

In our house, Henry and Nora have gotten along immediately from the time Nora was born. They compliment each other in the most beautiful ways. Even 7-years-later, their positive relationship mostly comes pretty easy for them. As small children they never fought, hurt each other, or otherwise had any really difficult moments. Nora and Gus were more typical siblings, enjoying each other's company for the most part but definitely not above biting one another in a moment of heightened emotions. Once they were both past toddlerhood they play well and are generally good friends. 

Then, enter Gus and Teddy. These two are like oil and water. They struggle. Their relationship has not come easy. With observation I attribute that to their personalities (they are just really different humans), that they both struggle with verbal communication, and their interests. It has been a different challenge for me, but one that we've accepted. 

Practically, for now that means:

  • Sitting close by and giving them opportunities to interact while sportscasting. This means giving them some verbal hints about what they are both feeling in a situation. I try to balance this with giving them opportunities to solve conflict on their own. But I need to be close to them while they are playing. 
  • Watching closely and move closer if I sense aggression is likely. As with so many Montessori parenting moments, observation is key. Our number one priority is to keep everyone safe. I can only do that if I observe closely and am ready to intervene if things get aggressive - and they definitely do. 
  • Notice the positives (even if just for myself) and never try to force something they aren’t naturally ready for. Kids at this age are not ready for logic, empathy, and forced friendship. They are naturally mostly concerned about themselves and their own interests, desires and emotions. Noticing the good makes it easier to remember that they are doing as best as they can in the stages they are in. 
  • Set boundaries around alone play for the two of them. They cannot play alone without someone else monitoring. We have to accept where they are at and the reality that opportunities to play alone will come eventually. 
  • Acknowledge the very real feels they have when conflict arrises. While I might see their conflict as tiring and unnecessary, it's coming from a place of real feelings, acknowledge and explaining those feelings helps everyone feel seen and understand the situation. 

Someday these two might have an easy relationship, or they might not. It’s not my job to set expectations, or make everyone happy. Right now, it’s about acknowledging and keeping everyone safe. It can be really exhausting, but I know in the end, we will all be better off for it.

Do you have siblings that have struggled to get along?

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Rebekah said…
I *love* this post. So real, and so helpful to know that not everyone gets along the same.