One of the articles that recently gained the most interest from our readership was 10 Tips for Better Communication within the Family , a result, perhaps, of the difficult times we have been going through as a global society.
Being stuck under the same roof without any other commitments or external distractions has made us see our closest relationships for what they truly are; it has led us to rediscover balance – or re-establish it – aiming at a healthy, happy, calm coexistence with our loved ones.
Today we are going to tackle another theme that concerns communication at home. This will be an article for grandparents and parents in particular: How can we teach children to communicate better as siblings?
Parents of Two or More Siblings, Rather Than Several Only Children
Having more than one child requires us to take care of each of them, making sure than none lacks anything they need to thrive. Our job is also to raise them together.
We are obliged, as educators, to nourish their relationships with each other as well, until they are grown and able to manage on their own.
How many siblings are, unfortunately, “only children” who happen to be raised in the same home? How many lack closeness, respect, and mutual sharing?
I wish I could say nothing of the sort exists, because it seems so nonsensical, but as I type, many come to mind.
And what do they have in common? Sadly, parents who have failed to foster a strong fraternal bond.
Family: Life’s First School
It is a fact that children spend most of their time with their family. It is a truism that family environment also influences them more than any other as they grow up.
The good and bad examples they witness, the values transmitted or neglected, their inner peace or hostility, the reciprocity or closure they see will decide which path their lives follow.
Montessori says that the wounds imprinted on the soul during early childhood years remain forever.
Looking at this positively, we could also say the opposite: the love that surrounds us in those early years will bring us to become people who are able to love with ease. The relational skills we learn at home as children will help us in school, in friendships, in work environments, etc. To borrow a definition from sociologist Pierpaolo Donati, we could say that the family unit is the first matrix of society. It is so important that this germinal cell – a basic part of the "community body" – thrives!
Four Guidelines for Teaching Our Children That They Are Siblings
Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty. We'd like to propose just 4 ideas to help our children as they grow, to be able to interact with their siblings.
1) Facilitate mutual understanding by encouraging them to be open in asking questions. It is very easy to interpret another's behavior negatively ("He's just selfish," "He doesn't love me," "He doesn't care about how I feel"). The first step to understanding, coming together, and making peace might be to ask clear and direct questions about why the other person behaved a certain way. Instead of drawing conclusions of your own, it’s important to be humble and ask the other person what they are feeling – what motivates them to do certain things. Children will get used to the fact that dialogue is important and that only by truly listening to one other can we get along.
2) Be the first to question themselves. It is so important that children learn to be able to admit their fault at a very young age. They need to learn how to let themselves be challenged. Sometimes others have every right to be angry with us, because at times we are objectively in the wrong. We can admit this and apologize. This is how children learn that they make mistakes, but their mistakes do not define them. They also learn that relationships with siblings are worth more than pride.
3) Tone is very important: it helps to stay calm and speak without prejudice/hostility . To understand each other, to really encounter each other, to resolve a misunderstanding, how we address the other person is fundamental. If we attack the other person, it is much more difficult for them to listen to me and to reflect. We must teach our children to welcome others with all their faults and to put aside contempt for the person (as the saying does: one must hate the sin, not the sinner).
4) Describe the situation to the siblings from your own perspective. It is important to act as mediators – to objectively explain how you see the situation that has arisen. "In my opinion, John pushed you because you took his toy without asking permission," "Jack got angry because pushing is always a bad thing, even if he didn't behave well." It is rare that one side is either totally right or totally wrong when there’s a disagreement. Many times, both/all need to take a step back, then move one step back toward the other. Let's help them if they can't do it on their own....