Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On my soapbox

Are your kids driving each other (and you) crazy? I have some tips! Now, I'm no expert, but, I've learned a thing or two in my 8 1/2 years teaching kindergarten and my 4 1/2 years of parenting. I've been using this stuff a lot lately, so I'm in the mode to share.

One thing my teaching partner and I are really good at is conflict resolution. We were just talking about this today. I think its kind of our 'signature' as a classroom. A lot of times when children are having issues with each other, the response is: "stay away from him then,' or 'tell her you don't like that.' We go deeper.

We use something called 'Tools of the Heart,' that we learned from a group called Soul Shoppe.
It goes like this:

Student A (accidentally) knocks Student B's crayon basket to the floor. Student B doesn't realize it is an accident, and is very angry. Instead of saying, 'YOU'RE NOT MY FRIEND ANYMORE!' or socking him, they say this:

Student A: "I feel (insert feeling word) 'angry' when people (important not to say 'you.' research shows that as soon as you say 'you' the other party goes on the defensive and stops listening) knock over my things. (Now ask for what you want) "Will you please help me pick up my crayons?" (or) "Will you please be more careful next time?"

It is surprising how empowered students feel and how much better they feel after saying this. They go from angry to pacified immediately. Student B almost always looks sheepish and calmly agrees to do whatever Student A asks in a kind voice. Problem over.

Just about every time an issue arises in the classroom (a lot), we go through these steps. It seems like it would take longer to do this, but it really saves time. (We aren't having to contend with lingering arguments.)

Miss P doesn't have a sibling, but at home this translates basically to us just really hearing her out. I can't think of a great example, but when she doesn't want to do something - like brush her teeth, instead of saying,'just do it now,' (which I only say when I'm rushed and at the end of my rope - rare occasions), I will say something like, 'It looks like you're feeling unhappy about brushing your teeth. Tell me more.' Then, I will usually just empathasize. "I can see how it's hard to stop drawing -- which you love to do -- to go brush your teeth. I hate stopping things I love to do a chore too." If you haven't tried this before - simply empathizing and relating works wonders. Your child relaxes. Then I offer a choice, or something that sounds like an incentive, but really isn't anything, like, 'why don't you color for 10 more seconds, and then go?' or "do you want to use your red toothbrush or the pink one?" or "let's go brush your teeth and then read a book after."

Again, seems like it would take longer to do this. But it goes fast, and if you weigh the 30 second conversation that ends in smiles against a fit, the conversation is worth it. It is all about relationship building and giving kids respect.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

I really need to do better at that, although I am feeling like I live at the end of my rope lately -- it's not an appropriate way to parent. :)