Resolving conflicts
        When interpersonal conflicts arise among students, children need peaceful solutions. I know that some parents encourage children to defend themselves physically. But teachers can’t be in position to referee fistfights. For that reason, many teachers encourage children to solve their problems by using their words. In this way, we keep our hands, feet, and objects to ourselves.

        Parents have told me that when children learn to use problem-solving techniques successfully at school, it frequently carries over to use with siblings. The goal is for children to be able to solve their disputes without adult intervention. In any event, parents, teachers, classmates, and siblings benefit when children are empowered in this way.

        The first step in the process is the statement of displeasure: “I don’t like it when you take my pencil.”

        Then comes the statement for the desired outcome: “I want you to give it back to me.”

        It is sometimes helpful to ask, “Why are you doing this?” or “What do you want?”

        I sometimes see that when a child comes to me with a problem (“Johnny scratched me.”), the complainer tells me he has no idea why it happened. When I work with the children, I often find out that Johnny scratched Mikey because Mikey took Johnny’s toy. Mikey conveniently forgot what he had done to instigate Johnny.

        I do not ask children to apologize to each other after an altercation. In my experience, children are usually not sorry about what they did. If they are not sorry, what would be the point in making them say that they are? I don’t want to make the situation worse by asking them to lie.

        Instead of a focus on the incident that has already happened, I prefer a commitment toward future positive behavior, such as a  promise not to hit again or to solve the next situation with words. I explain that I expect them to keep their wordto me, just as I keep my word when I make promises to them. In this way, we bring an honorable closure to a tough situation.

        This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents

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