SHADY OAK BEST PRACTICES: CONFLICT RESOLUTION SKILLS

SHADY OAK BEST PRACTICES: CONFLICT RESOLUTION SKILLS

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Every month we publish two articles on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.

“Fighting in school,” once considered a minor disciplinary issue, is now recognized to have dangerous repercussions. At best, it teaches kids to see life in terms of “winning” and “losing” and “taking sides.” At worst, it creates a “might makes right” culture where horrendous bullying goes unpunished as victims are chided to “just ignore him” or “show some backbone.” Many kids take years to unlearn the “win or be a victim” mentality. Many never do outgrow it; they simply “graduate” to fighting with ugly words instead of fists. A few keep the “if you’re mad at ’em, belt ’em one” attitude for life, as many tragic news stories attest.

kids and teacher

The younger that children learn positive alternatives, the better. Teachers can help by putting a quick stop to physical or verbal abuse (without pinning negative labels on anyone), by encouraging squabblers to propose alternative solutions, and by incorporating the following conflict resolution skills into school curricula:

Mutual Understanding and Clear Communication

The classic metaphor of unsatisfactory compromise is cutting a disputed orange down the middle without realizing that one party wants only the fruit, the other only the peel. Before anyone proposes a solution, make sure everyone has opportunity to clearly state his or her goals—and to verbally clarify the other party’s goals.

Mutual Respect

The classic metaphor of unsatisfactory compromise is cutting a disputed orange down the middle without realizing that one party wants only the fruit, the other only the peel. Before anyone proposes a solution, make sure everyone has opportunity to clearly state his or her goals—and to verbally clarify the other party’s goals.

Humility

Modifying one’s position, when there’s good reason to do so, is a sign of strength and not weakness. The most effective citizens are those who remain willing to listen to and learn from anybody, realizing there are more important values than protecting one’s pride.

teacher and kids

Special Note to Teachers

No matter how tempting it is to “just settle things” by pronouncing summary judgment from your position of authority, allow everyone his or her full say. Even the bullies and the “incorrigibles” improve once they feel someone understands. (Remember, as long as consequences for unacceptable behavior are implemented without suggesting the offender is a naturally “bad” person, the “somebody cares” feeling is actually reinforced by being held to a higher standard.)

At Shady Oak, we emphasize conflict resolution skills because they lead to better understanding, cooperation, and confidence among students—and in the society students will grow up to build.

Science Backs Us Up! Further Resources on the Topic