7 Ways to Teach Kids to manage their own Conflicts
Strengthening students’ ability to assess their problems and consider a range of solutions allows for better and less impulsive conflict resolution.
Any educator knows that conflict between kids is typical both inside and outside the classroom, whether it’s a disagreement about who is out during a heated game on the playground or a deeper collision of ideas or personalities.
While it is necessary to assist students in resolving disagreements with peers, addressing the problem for them rather than supporting students in resolving difficulties on their own might inhibit the development of crucial conflict-resolution and problem-solving abilities.
Carolyn Coffey, a preschool instructor at Educare New Orleans, believes that providing children with these abilities as early as possible is critical to their future interpersonal success.
“We’re teaching kids how to respond appropriately to confrontation, how to maintain self-control, and how to remain cool,” she explains. “If we wait until they’re in fourth or even middle school, they’ll have already learned in practice what they’ll do to address a problem, and it’s possibly not the greatest option.”
Many instructors, including Coffey, have devised novel approaches to assisting pupils in recognizing strong emotions, self-regulating, and resolving interpersonal disputes on their own. We asked teachers to describe how these activities are implemented in their classrooms.
- How large is my problem? : Teachers at Lister Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington, make pupils think proportionately about their emotions to help them comprehend the many sizes of difficulties they may face, including how to appraise disputes with other children.
Students actively debate the challenges they encounter and complete a worksheet about major vs little problems using real-life examples. Students write down several sorts of difficulties on sheets of paper, ranging from missing their schoolwork to having a family in the hospital, and then sort them into groups based on their magnitude.
“We spoke about the different levels of difficulties, starting with one and working our way up to five, which is a significant problem that impacts a lot of people and takes a long time to fix,” explains fourth-grade teacher Anna Parker. “If someone takes my pencil and I start tossing stuff and yelling, it is an unusual reaction given the nature of the problem.”
- A route to peace: Students in the Modesto City School District’s primary schools can use a six-step Peace Path to help them resolve their problems. The actual path is either spray-painted or hand-painted into an asphalt concrete surface, with markers for each student’s foot. Students go along the route while standing across from each other on opposing sides of the walkway, answering a series of questions aloud: What is the problem? What are your thoughts? What do you suppose the other person is thinking? Students debate problems together with adult supervision and agree on a plan to go forward peacefully.
“Problems may occur everywhere at the elementary level,” says Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services Mark Herbst. “When [students] need to solve an issue, they’ll go to the Peace Path, and in some cases—depending on the kids and their experience with the process—they’ll be asked to do it on their own.”
- Pros and Cons, 2.0: Strengthening students’ capacity to appraise their options and consider a variety of alternatives—along with their potential consequences—leads to better, less impulsive conflict resolution decisions.
Filling out a decision matrix encourages students to think empathically by giving them a framework to consider the costs and rewards of their actions. “Students may use a basic point system, with positive numbers for benefits and negative numbers for cons, to analyze alternatives and evaluate the impact (pros and cons) on themselves and others,” instructional coach Jorge Valenzuela says.
For example, a student may be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to tease a classmate, as well as whether or not to be an ally to the victim or to engage in bullying. A course of action scores 0 points if the student cannot envision any positive results. The student then deducts one point for each probable negative impact of the activity, such as damaged feelings or punitive repercussions for anybody involved.
“The option with the greatest score might be judged the most responsible,” Valenzuela explains after tallying their statistics. While a physical decision matrix may not always be available on the playground, once mastered, the strategy may be utilized to swiftly examine the possibilities in a prospective disagreement.
- Turning issues into opportunities: Cathleen Beachboard, an eighth-grade English teacher, has her pupils jot down a problem or difficulty they’re having on a sticky note at the start of class. While the method may be used in any situation, academic or interpersonal, it is particularly useful for conflict resolution. Each student has one minute to talk about their problem after being partnered with a classmate, and their allocated partner can provide recommendations on how to address it.
Every three to four weeks, students participate in this exercise to help release tension and develop problem-solving. Beachboard claims that it also demonstrates her concern for her pupils’ well-being and “allows kids to recognize that sometimes you have to go to others with concerns for a different viewpoint,” according to her.
- Practicing conflict: Providing students with hypothetical conflict situations or group role-playing allows them to practice responding to real-life conflict. They may analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each option before making a decision, and they can do it in a low-stakes atmosphere, according to English instructor Sean Cooke. Another advantage is that students learn to value their classmates’ ideas and are challenged to be more creative in figuring out how to effectively address an issue they may encounter.
“Students learn to understand that there is more than one way to skin a cat,” he adds, by watching others model thinking that varies from their own yet leads to a solution that fulfills their objectives.
- A shift in perspective: Educator Neil Finney asks, “How would you manage this if you were me (the teacher)?” to facilitate student-to-student conversations that, he claims, result in longer-lasting conflict resolutions
“Looking at the problem from a different angle, in this example through the eyes of the instructor, might help the kid momentarily dissociate herself from her own behavior choice,” he explains.
At first, asking students to go through the thoughts of another—a practice known as scripted empathy—may result in an unpleasant silence, but Finney advises patience, advising instructors to give kids at least 10 seconds to digest the question, use their empathy, and craft a response.
- With a little assistance from my friends: Fifth-graders at Hawaii’s Mid-Pacific Elementary School are taught how to use peer mediation. Then, as members of the Peace Team, they can assist third- and fourth-graders in resolving conflicts on the school grounds. If a Peace Team member notices a possible problem, they will approach the kids and ask if they want to go to peer mediation. Students can also ask for peer mediation if all sides are ready to participate.
Students are brought to a quiet space on campus designated for these discussions, where the settlement process begins under adult supervision.
About the article
Strengthening students’ ability to assess their problems and consider a range of solutions allows for better and less impulsive conflict resolution. In this article, we have discussed the 7 ways to teach kids to manage their conflicts on their own.