If you have more than one child in your home, you know there are multiple conflicts between children every day. Some of them are over little things and one child will easily move on without much of a fuss. But other times, the conflict continues to escalate until it is completely out of control and you have to intervene before one of them kills the other one. Enter: the Montessori peace rose.
One of the most beautiful parts of Montessori education and living is that it teaches the child to be independent. So of course we want to also extend that to her relationships with others and how to resolve conflicts without violence. In a Montessori classroom, you would most likely find a peace table with two chairs and a peace rose on it. This is a space that is set aside specifically for two children to use when they are arguing about something, or for one child to use when she is just feeling a bit overwhelmed by her emotions and needs to take a break. In the home, I find that conflicts can occur ANYWHERE, and sometimes that means we are quite far from where we might set aside a Montessori peace table — so we improvise a bit.
We DO have a calming corner set up for one child to go to when she needs some alone time [you can read more about that HERE], but when we are dealing with large conflicts, we tend to grab a nearby object and use it as our “peace rose.”
The peace rose [or marker, sock, stuffed animal — whatever you can reach in the moment!] is used to instantly de-escalate a situation and allow both children to have their voices heard. Whoever is holding the peace rose is allowed to share what happened and how she is feeling, then she passes it to the next child. That person also has a turn to share, and then they continue to pass the peace rose back and forth until there is some sort of a resolution — that may be a simple apology from one to the other, or a plan of action that they have agreed upon together, or just an agreement to let it go and reset.
My daughters are 3 and almost 5 years old, and I still have to be there to moderate a bit as they are having their peace rose discussion. I am often [but not always!] the one to begin the conversation by handing one of them the peace rose, and I am there to make sure they stay on track and everyone is happy with the outcome.
The first time we used a peace rose, the girls were about 2.5 and almost 4.5 years old. After a bitter argument over a toy that escalated to exchanging physical blows, I called a time out and removed the object of the argument. I gathered us all together and we sat in a circle. I held the peace rose [a marker, in that instance], and explained that each person would have their turn to speak when they were holding the marker. We talked it out and came up with a plan that both girls were happy with.
Now that we’ve been using this method for a little over 6 months, I have seen BIG results. When the girls are in the middle of an argument, they’re usually both shouting and screaming and neither one can even hear what the other one is saying. As soon as I hand them a peace rose, the girls immediately stop screaming, catch their breaths, and talk calmly to each other. There are still tears and big feelings, but they are being expressed in a way that the other can hear and understand. Sometimes they’ll start the peace rose conversation all by themselves without me having to intervene! And they are both insistent that the other one be holding the peace rose when they speak — that action of passing it back and forth seems to calm them and help them to focus on what is being said.
This is still a work in progress and will be for some time, but it is far and above the interpersonal problem-solving skills they had before we began.
*I was planning on asking the girls to pose for a photo demonstrating how to use the peace rose, but the morning I wrote this we happened to have an opportunity to do it for real! I managed to sneak these photos while the girls took turns with the peace rose [a pen] to discuss how Nora felt when Lila would not let her see the pictures in the book she was reading. In the end, they agreed that Lila would read the book to Nora in the afternoon after she had had some time to read it by herself and “have some space.”