Teaching conflict resolution in the elementary classroom is an extremely important task and in my opinion, one to begin on the first day of the school year!
As is common for the Lower Elementary aged-child, first instincts seem to be to run to the teacher to tattle on someone. The first question we typically ask when this happens is, “Have you told (child’s name) how that made you feel?” We then invite the child who is upset to get the peace flower (or I’ve also used the more specific “peace rose,” depending on what you have in your room) which has a designated spot in a vase in our room.
This conflict resolution process consists of the person holding the peace flower to say how he or she is feeling, while the other child listens. (For example, “I am upset because you took my pencil without asking.”) When the first speaker finishes, he or she passes the flower to the other child and that child responds. They take turns speaking, passing the flower back and forth, until (hopefully!) the issue is resolved.
Modeling this process is essential for children to understand how conflict resolution should work – including both stating how he or she feels but also taking time to listen to the other person. For the first few months of children learning to how do this, a teacher needs to be close by to moderate, providing guiding phrases (such as “I feel ___ because ____”) as necessary. But after a few months, the children go and get the peace flower as needed and handle the issues on their own.
Giving the children a process to work out a problem with a friend empowers them to solve their problems with each other without having to get an adult involved. Teaching conflict resolution in the classroom has given each child a voice. While the tattling still happens occasionally, far more often we see the children picking up the peace flower and inviting a friend to talk through the issue at hand.
What methods do you use to teach conflict resolution in the elementary classroom?