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Montessori at home: Why we don’t force kids to say ‘I’m sorry’

Have you ever seen a kid push someone, glance up to see if an adult saw, then shout “Sorry!” in a sing-song, anything-but-sorry voice, and run away?


It’s pretty clear this does nothing to help the injured child, or to convey any sort of lesson to the aggressor. But what else can you do? How do you teach children how to really make amends, see what they did wrong and have empathy for others?

There is another way and it’s surprisingly straightforward.

If you want to teach children to resolve conflict beyond the hollow “I’m sorry,” try this simple process that Montessori teachers use.

The role of an adult in Montessori conflict resolution is to be a neutral mediator, to ask questions to guide the children in sorting through their feelings and talking to each other. With practice, the children do as much of the resolution on their own as possible.

First, separate the children

If the conflict is violent, the first step is to separate the children so that no one gets hurt. This is done firmly, but without anger. Keeping your own emotions out of it can be hard but remaining as neutral as possible keeps the focus on the children, and helps them feel safe to talk about their feelings and to be honest about what happened.

When the children are relatively calm and in control, they are ready to talk to each other.

Then ask questions: What happened? How do you feel?

Start by asking each child what happened. Then ask him how he feels.

Repeat what he said to make sure you understand and that it’s clear to the other child. “You feel sad because Johnny said he wouldn’t play with you and then pushed you.”

Then give the other child a turn,“Johnny, you feel annoyed because Timmy was following you around the playground and poking you.”

What could you have done differently?

Instead of doling out a punishment, ask the children what they could have done to handle the situation more appropriately. hey may need help coming up with answers, especially at first, You may need to give them a few alternatives for how they could have responded.

For example, you could say, “Johnny, pushing is never okay. You could have asked Timmy to stop following you or asked me for help when he was poking you. Timmy, you could have asked Johnny to play with you instead of chasing him.”

With time, the children will be increasingly able to do this on their own.

What do you need to feel better?

Many times, the children will be calm after this conversation. Sometimes though, someone will still be hurt or upset. You may ask them, “What do you need to feel better?”

Children often request a hug or sometimes a drink of water or an ice pack if they got hurt. It helps both parties feel better if the children help each other with whatever they need.

All together, we call this an “I message”— I feel…when you…and I want…It is a simple formula, but it helps children focus on expressing themselves and how they feel, instead of just hurling accusations.

But what about punishment?

You may notice that there was no mention of punishment in this resolution. Montessori focuses on natural consequences rather than punishment. Often, there will be no need for consequences outside of the conflict resolution, but if someone is acting unsafe or repeatedly breaking the rules, there may be a need for additional consequences.

For example, “Johnny, that’s the second time you’ve hurt someone on the playground today. I can’t trust you to be safe right now. You need to stay with me until you can be safe.”

What about apologizing?

While Montessori teachers don’t generally force apologies, being willing and able to apologize when you’re really sorry is still a great life skill that children can practice. Instead of making your child apologize, try modeling it for them.

Practice apologizing to your child, or to your partner in front of your child. Giving them this model will go much further than making them say “I’m sorry.”

You can also try asking your child if they want to apologize if you can tell they’re upset about something they did. Help them work through the words they could use and how it might help them, and the other person, feel better. Some children might be more comfortable writing an apology note.

There is certainly a place for apologies, but children’s conflicts offer an opportunity for so much more. Let’s slow down and give them the tools they need to talk through disagreements, express their feelings and be peaceful people in a world that so desperately needs it.

Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.


This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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