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Conflict Resolution at School & on the Playground

Children find themselves in precarious situations that often lead to escalated conflict with their peers. Conflicts arise in the classroom, lunchroom, library, school bus, playground, while standing in line, and any place where kids gather. During adolescence into the developing stages of puberty, many children act out their emotions in the form of teasing, gossip, and physical aggression. If left unchecked, these same behavioral patterns will transfer over into the teenage years, where stiffer competition exists among peer groups. The inability to resolve conflict without resorting violence is symptomatic of youth's inability to handle confrontation. Teaching youth how to resolve conflict in a peaceful way can help reduce the climbing rates of incidents of violence and criminal mischief. Conflict resolution education aims to make that a reality.

Conflict resolution education attempts to instill problem-solving skills among the children in dispute. It involves allowing both parties to express their points of view, interests, and provide ways to find acceptable solutions. Conflict resolution educational programs equip educators with the necessary tools to teach kids how to resolve conflict in nonviolent ways. The most effective programs encompass multiple components to achieve this outcome, including problem-solving skills, effective communication and listening skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and other important life skills.

Educators have identified four conflict resolution strategies that can be used in a variety of school-based settings. These four conflict resolution strategies include peer mediation, process curriculum, peaceable classrooms, and peaceable schools. All four approaches provide youth with the necessary tools to help cope with conflict. Educators can work with their local school district to determine which approach to use for the best results. Many experts assert that the youth will learn to recognize and resolve problems before they escalate. Many schools and communities have adopted the peer mediation approach to teaching conflict resolution. Under this approach, trained mediators work with their peers to resolve conflict. Mediation programs aim to reduce traditional use of punishment, such as suspension, detention, and expulsion. Peer mediation programs have proven effective in most cases involving conflict turned violent. As a result, these programs have become highly valued among teachers.

Teachers also have the option of devoting a separate course, or curriculum, to the principles and processes of conflict resolution. The process curriculum approach aims to teach kids how to solve disputes by helping them envision scenarios that could occur in the future. This approach introduces ways to solve problems before they arise. The same applies for the peaceable classroom approach, except that it integrates conflict resolution into the daily curriculum and overall management of the classroom. The peaceable classroom approach reinforces cooperative behavior and encourages the acceptance of diversity. It also teaches caring and effective communication.

Schools that have adopted the peaceable classroom approach typically have the entire school involved the process. In fact, many schools have adopted the peaceable school approach, which incorporates the above three approaches. A peaceable school creates an environment where everyone works together toward conflict resolution, including students, teachers, and administrators. The peaceable school approach ensures that the entire school remains watchful of possible conflicts.

The aforementioned conflict resolution programs have helped schools, communities, and juvenile justice settings improve their overall climate. Many institutions have reported a reduction in disruptive and violent behavior, chronic school absences, and disciplinary referrals and suspensions. These conflict resolution programs have also given the young increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect. Adults play an important part in making sure kids exercise their newly found conflict resolution skills. Therefore, it remains vitally important for school personnel to set an example. All of these programs aim to keep both children and adults in line without resulting to violence.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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