I was looking back on my post on sharing and realized something: I hadn’t mentioned the magic words in there! These are words that I learnt from Knox’s Montessori nursery Directoress in Taipei. And here they are:
You can use it when s/he is done.
Sometimes you say: “X is working on it now, you can have it when she is done with it.”
Use this consistently, between siblings at home, in school. The rule is that the person who is working/playing has the right to not feel interfered with, harried and anxious when they are working on something. It is a key component to children’s ability to concentrate and feel sociable with each other. Once they understand that there are rules to a civilized society, that they take turns benefiting from it, and that it is not an arbitrary rule but one that is always there, they will be relaxed and ready to learn.
I need to mention that this is part and parcel of the Montessori ecosystem. This is only one component among several that helps foster a child’s concentration and sociability. The best results come when it’s combined with various other components, including: an accessible environment, appropriate materials, consistency and routine (work period), non-busy design (not overstimulating), adults as guides…etc.
And consideration must also be made for a child’s ability to follow orders. It is not fair, for example, for a kid who’s into building things constantly have his projects destroyed by a toddler sibling. Nor for the sibling to be constantly cordoned off in a pen so her elder brother can play. Offer a time and/or a place where the child can play undisturbed: baby’s nap time, a higher table, their room, shutting themselves up in the playpen. When the younger one is not yet able to obey orders, it is up to you as the adult to protect the elder child’s right his/her developmental needs.