Monday, February 4, 2013

Conflict resolution and elementary age kids

If you have ever heard the expression, “It’s like herding cats,” you can imagine what it is like for us “herding” around fifty elementary students into one room at the end of a long school day. The students we work with have been in school for almost eight hours and have been sitting for most of their day. By that point, they have some excess energy that they would like to get out of their system, and our goal is to give students a safe space to work through that energy and accomplish a few things along the way, like homework and art projects. Sometimes, the energy they have can give the space a feeling of chaos and in the midst of all that is happening, conflict can occur.

I have found that one needs to adopt the practice of mindfulness to be able to deal with this chaos and conflict in a positive way. Susan Smalley, Ph.D., and Diana Winston, co-authors of Fully Present, say that mindfulness is 

"an accepting and kind attitude toward yourself and your present moment experience." 

Here are ten steps to practicing a kind of mindfulness that can help when you are facing a difficult situation or conflict with a child:

1) Stop! Or at least slow down.
2) Take a few seconds to think.
3) Don’t take it personally.
4) Don’t blame the student.
5) Use positive reinforcements.
6) Show them you care.
7) Encourage them.
8) Validate their feelings.
9) Inspire them.
10) Never give up.
© Ron Glodoski, Turn Around Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

I look at these ten steps every day before the students enter the room to remind myself of what I am there to do. Having this positive frame of mind, helps me to set my intentions for dealing with conflict. So whether it is a student that has had a bad day, or two friends in an argument, or someone that does not want to do their homework, I can take a minute to pause and consider my role in making the situation better instead of worse. That all said, it is not a perfect process. I have days that I feel exasperated, and I have moments where being an “inspiration” is pretty far from my mind. But most days are good, and some days are phenomenal, and at the end of each day, I remind myself that I did my best.  


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