The Guidance Counselor at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School provides short-term individual and small group guidance lessons that address academic and personal success. The Counselor provides classroom guidance lessons that include respect, bullying, conflict resolution/problem solving, study skills/test taking skills, and character education. Communication between the Guidance Counselor and parents is vital. If you have a concern about your child, please call or email.
“Hey, get out of my way!”
“No, you get out of MY way.”
“I was here first!”
“No you weren’t. I was!”
“You’re always cutting in line!”
And so on . . . Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you’re in the lucky minority. Teachers all over have been expressing frustration about the amount of conflict their kids are having. The irony here is that kids are just as unhappy about conflict as teachers are. In a national survey of more than 2,100 students conducted with Free Spirit Publishing, a whopping 80 percent said they wanted to learn more about how to get along better with their peers, work out conflicts, and avoid fights.
So what can we do? Take an active role in teaching kids how to handle conflict, and when effective structures are put in place, incidences of fights, disagreements, and bickering drop dramatically. Mean words that spark conflict often decrease and learning improves because kids learn better in an atmosphere of trust and safety.
Here are some things you can do right now to reduce and resolve conflicts.
Teach the steps to resolving conflict. The following Win-Win Guidelines help move kids from conflict to compromise. Show them how to use each step, then make sure to rehearse and role-play them before actual conflicts happen. Hang the guidelines on a chart near your work-it-out spot and put them on laminated business-size cards your kids can carry in their pockets. Before long, using these guidelines will become second nature. I’ve seen students as young as kindergarten using a modified version. And guess what? It worked.
The Win/Win Guidelines for Working Out Conflicts
1. Cool off.
2. Talk it over starting from “I,” not “you.”
3. Listen and say back what you heard.
4. Take responsibility for your role in the conflict.
5. Come up with a solution that’s fair to each of you.
6. Affirm, forgive, thank, or apologize.
Teach the following rules when you introduce the guidelines and don’t forget to do plenty of role play so your kids get comfortable:
Rules for Using Win/Win
1. Treat each other with respect; no blaming or put-downs.
2. Attack the problem, not the person.
3. No interrupting, negative faces, or body language.
4. Be willing to compromise.
5. Tell the truth.
Stay as neutral as you can throughout the process. Let the kids own it. Your job is to be an impartial guide who supports them in coming up with their own solution.
If disputants argue, blame, or show disrespect, stop the process and have them cool off some more. Consider having them continue the following day if necessary.
One last thing: Try using these steps in your own life. It’ll not only make your teaching of conflict resolution easier, it’ll also help you handle whatever conflicts arise outside of school. And who among us doesn’t need a little help with that once in a while?
Good luck and peace to all of you!
Naomi Drew, M.A., is a nationally known expert on conflict resolution and peacemaking. She consults with school districts, leads workshops, and is often featured in the media. She is also the author of No Kidding About Bullying and The Kids’ Guide to Working Out Conflicts (with accompanying leader’s guide). Her website, www.learningpeace.com, is a destination for people who want to create peace in their homes and schools. She lives in Lambertville, New Jersey