Conflict Resolution for Kids

7 Ways to Teach Kids to Manage Their Own Conflicts

Conflict amongst students is normal both inside and outside of the classroom, and every educator is aware of this fact. This conflict can be as simple as a disagreement over who is out during a heated game on the playground, or it can be as complex as a clash of values or personalities.

Assisting students in finding solutions to disagreements with their classmates is an essential component of effective classroom management. However, solving the problem for students rather than assisting students in finding solutions to problems on their own can inhibit the growth of essential conflict-resolution and problem-solving skills.

According to Carolyn Coffey, a preschool teacher at Educare New Orleans, providing children with the opportunity to acquire these skills at the earliest age possible is critical and will be the key to their success in interacting with others in the future.

She explains that “We are teaching them the proper way to respond to problems, to apply self-control, and to calm themselves.” If we wait until they are in the fourth grade or even until they are in middle school, they will already have learned via practise what it is that they are going to do in order to solve something… “and it’s possible that it’s not the greatest approach.”

There are a lot of teachers who, like Coffey, have found inventive strategies to assist children in recognising their significant emotions, learning how to self-regulate, and independently resolving disagreements with their peers. We posed this question to teachers and asked them to describe how they implement these activities in their respective classrooms.

1. How big is my problem? : The teachers at Lister Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington, have their students think proportionally about their emotions in order to help the students understand the different sizes of problems they may face, including how to evaluate conflicts with other children. This is done in order to help the students understand how to assess conflicts with other children.

The students engage in a lively discussion regarding the kinds of challenges they experience and also complete a worksheet comparing major problems to small problems using examples from real life. The students write down several types of difficulties on separate pieces of paper, such as misplacing their homework or having a family member admitted to the hospital. Then, they sort the problems into categories according to their severity.

“We talked about the different sizes of problems, going from one being the smallest up to five being something that is major that affects lots of people and takes a long time to solve,” says fourth-grade teacher Anna Parker. “One is the smallest problem, and five is something that is major that affects lots of people and takes a long time to solve.” “If I start throwing things and yelling because someone took my pencil, it is an unexpected behaviour based on the size of that problem,” you say. “If I start throwing things and screaming because someone took my pencil.”

Standing on the schoolyard’s freshly painted asphalt are students in elementary school.
Kindly Provided by the Modesto City Schools
Two pupils were able to finish the peace route with flying colours.
2. A means for achieving peace: Students in elementary schools within the Modesto City School District have access to a six-step Peace Path that can assist them in working through their own personal problems. On an asphalt or concrete surface, the real path will typically have lines that indicate where each pupil should place their feet. These markings may be hand-painted or painted with spray paint. Students move forward along the path by answering a series of questions aloud while standing across from one another on opposing sides of the walkway. The first question in the sequence is “What is the problem?” How do you feel? What do you believe the other party is experiencing inside? Under the guidance of an adult, students examine potential solutions to the problem and come to a consensus on a strategy for moving forward in a civil manner.

According to the Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services, Mark Herbst, “Problems can exist anyplace at the elementary level.” [Citation needed] “When [students] need to engage in problem-solving, they will go to the Peace Path, and in some cases — depending on the students and [their familiarity] with the process — they are asked to do it independently,” says the teacher. “In situations where [students] need to engage in problem-solving, they will go to the Peace Path.”

3. The good and the bad, version 2.0: When students are able to better evaluate their options and investigate a variety of alternatives, as well as the potential implications of those alternatives, they are able to make decisions that are better and less rash when they are resolving problems.

Students can better model empathic thinking by filling out decision matrices, which also provides them with a framework within which to think about the costs and benefits of their conduct. “Using a straightforward point system, students may assess their alternatives and analyse the impact (pros and cons) on themselves and others,” educational coach Jorge Valenzuela adds. “Positive numbers can be assigned to advantages, and negative ones can be assigned to disadvantages.”

Diagram of the decision matrix
Thanks to Jorge Valenzuela for providing it.
For instance, a student may be forced to make a decision regarding the taunting of a fellow student, in which they must choose whether to side with the victim or take part in the bullying behaviour. A plan of action receives no points from the student if they are unable to identify any good consequences from following it. After that, the student considers the potential unfavourable repercussions of the action, such as wounded feelings or punitive consequences for anybody involved, and deducts one point for each of these potential events.

Valenzuela states that “after tallying their numbers, the choice that has the highest score can be considered the most responsible one.” Even while a physical decision matrix might not always be available when you’re out on the playground, once you’ve learned the process, you’ll be able to utilise it quickly to evaluate your options whenever there’s a potential for conflict.

4. Transforming challenges into opportunities Cathleen Beachboard, an English teacher for kids in the eighth grade, has her students start each class by writing down a challenge or difficulty they are currently facing on a post-it note. The tactic is useful to the management of conflict despite the fact that it may be utilised to address any kind of problem, whether academic or interpersonal. Each student, after being partnered with another student in the class, is given one minute to talk about their problem, and their assigned partner is given the opportunity to make suggestions on how the problem can be solved.

Students take part in this exercise approximately once every three to four weeks in order to assist them reduce stress and practise problem-solving skills. According to Beachboard, this not only demonstrates to kids that she is concerned about their wellbeing, but it also “allows pupils to recognise that sometimes you have to go to others with concerns for a new viewpoint.”

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5. Practicing how to respond in a conflict situation Giving students the option to engage in group role-playing or hypothetical conflict scenarios gives them the chance to practise how they will react in a real-life conflict situation. According to English teacher Sean Cooke, students are able to do so in an atmosphere with minimal stakes, which allows them to assess the merits and downsides of each option before making a decision. Students not only get an understanding for the perspectives of their classmates, but they are also encouraged to be more creative in determining how to find the most effective solution to an issue that they may be confronted with.

“Students learn to accept that there is more than one way to skin a cat,” so to speak, by seeing others model thinking that differs from their own, but that leads to a solution that satisfies their own interests, says he. “Seeing others model thinking that differs from their own leads to a solution that satisfies their own interests.”

6. Neil Finney, an educator, poses the following question to his students: “If you were me (the teacher), how would you handle this situation?” to encourage talks among students, which, according to him, result in more long-lasting solutions to misunderstandings and disagreements.

“If the student can view the situation from a different point of view, such as through the eyes of the instructor in this scenario, she may be able to momentarily dissociate herself from the behaviour choice she has made,” he says.

When you ask students to talk through the thinking of another person, you are engaging in a practise known as scripted empathy. This may initially result in an awkward silence; however, Finney advises patience and suggests that teachers wait at least 10 seconds for students to process the question, employ their empathy, and construct a response.

7. With a little assistance from my close companions: Students in the fifth grade at Mid-Pacific Elementary School in Hawaii are given instruction in the art of peer mediation as part of their curriculum. Then, as members of the Peace Team, they are available to assist students in the third and fourth grades in mediating conflicts that occur on the premises of the school. When a member of the Peace Team observes kids engaging in potentially disruptive behaviour, they will approach the students and inquire as to whether or not they would be interested in participating in peer mediation. Students have the option to ask for mediation from their peers, provided that both sides are willing to participate.

Under the supervision of adults, students are led to a secluded part of the campus that has been set aside for these discussions, and then the process of conflict resolution can begin. According to Principal Edna Hussey, this can take as little as a few minutes or as much as several days, depending on the nature of the conflict. For instance, in a game of Four Square played on the playground, two students who are arguing over a “unfair call” can come to the conclusion that starting over would be the easiest way to resolve the conflict.