Conflict Resolution

It's been too long, I know. I deeply regret it; however, sometimes real work has to come first. I do have some great things to share with everyone, but I have to start first with my promise: Conflict Resolution.

Last we talked, we discussed friendship, remember? In that discussion (okay, monologue), I told you we would do conflict resolution next. There are two things you want to remember with conflict resolution in the preschool classroom:

First, the idea is to empower the children to solve their own conflicts. You want to make it possible for them to solve their own problems when the time comes and you are not there.

Second, there are 5 guidelines to follow in ALL conflict (we'll get to that in a minute).

There are 4 types of conflict in any classroom:
  • Children with children
  • Children with adults
  • Adults with children
  • Adults with adults

In any of these conflicts, remember these 5 things:

  1. Keep it respectful: That is probably one of the most important. The name-calling, disrespecting, needs to stay out of it. It isn't going to do anyone any good. Note that the rule isn't "keep it respectful as long as the other person keeps it respectful"; no matter what the other person does, don't stoop to a lower level.
  2. Remain calm: This one is all about keeping in control. The level of the conflict will only rise as far as the lower level will allow it. If you are in conflict with someone and they are yelling, keep your voice down. They will only get louder if you get louder. It's a great control mechanism.
  3. Be matter of fact: What I really mean by this is "Keep emotions out of it". Conflict has NOTHING to do with emotions and EVERYTHING to do with facts. He has the car, you want the car. Simple as that. Once you start bringing in the emotions, the facts get blurred. He has the car, you are sad because you want the car; are you going to get the car just because you're sad about it? No. Is it going to change anything? It shouldn't. If it does, that's when things start getting inconsistent and unfair. (yes, I know life isn't fair, but the rules should at least be consistent).
  4. Get help from an outsider: this is what we are basically teaching the children to do; but this rule is for ALL conflicts. If you as an adult are in conflict with another adult and can't seem to be coming up with a resolution, ask for help from an unbiased outsider! If the conflict is between and adult and child and you can feel yourself getting defensive, the best thing you can do is ask another teacher to help you and the child out. It shows the child so much respect and they learn so much by it.
  5. Admit when you are wrong: This is probably the most difficult rule that anyone has. If you find, during the discussion, that you forgot something you had promised before or you find you didn't have all the facts...ADMIT IT! So much is solved with the words, "I was wrong."

Now, onto empowering children. What you want to do at any age is give the child the words to say. If someone wants their toy car back, you need to tell that child, "Tell him I want my car back." When you go over, take the car back from the child and hand it to the other child and say, "Give him his car back" you are only teaching both those children that other people will solve their problems AND if you're bigger and stronger you can do what you want. In essence, in the second scenario, you have become a bully.

Want to look at some scenarios?

Johnny is riding a tricycle, Sara wants to ride a tricycle. Sara goes up and pushes Johnny off the bike. The teacher (you) approach the situation quickly and say, "What's going on?" Here's how it plays out...
Johnny: She pushed me
Teacher: Tell her "Stop pushing me"
Johnny: Stop pushing me
Sara: I want to ride the bike
Teacher: Ask him, "Can I ride the bike?"
Sara (looks at teacher): Can I ride the bike?
Teacher: Don't look at me, look at Johnny and say "Can I ride the bike?"
Sara (looks at Johnny): Can I ride the bike?
Johnny (looks at teacher): I'm riding it now
Teacher: Will you let her know when you are done?
Johnny nods head
Teacher: Tell her, "I'm riding it now, I'll give it to you when I'm done."
Johnny: I'm riding it, I'll tell you when I'm done.
Teacher: Sara, did you hear that?
Sara: yes
Teacher (let's Johnny go then turns to Sara): What do you want to do while you wait your turn?

By giving the children their words to use, the teacher was able to help the children communicate what they wanted to say. Remember, young children are still building their vocabulary and grammar and don't easily or quickly know what they need to say in the heat of the moment. With the teacher walking them though giving them the script, they are able to solve the conflict on their own

By having the children face the each other during the conflict, the teacher is able to give them the courage that they need in the face of conflict. Having the teacher close by makes it easier to stand up for themselves. As they get more experienced in solving conflicts they will find it easier to stand up for themselves without an adult around. Sometimes, children won't need the words (they already know what they want to say) they just need a trusted adult close by to give them a bit more confidence.

With practice, they will soon be able to solve their own conflicts without adults around. It may take a while; it doesn't happen overnight. However, when it does happen, it makes every classroom run much more smoothly.

The most important part that you need to do with the children and make them look at the other person when they are talking. Many times they will look at the adult; but you have to make them look at the other child. This will empower them to solve their own conflicts as they grow and become stronger.


stefanie said...

Jenni, I have been reading your blog all afternoon and I can't tell you how much it's helped me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am trying to help my 3 year old son deal with anger more productively, and your ideas have really helped.

Jenni said...

I'm so glad you have gotten use out of what I have written. It's great to hear.
Thank you!