Image courtesy of Parents.com
How often do we hear a littany of complaints from our young learners: “Teacher, Johnny hit me!”, “Teacher, Emily took my pencil!”, “Teacher, Billy isn’t paying attention!”? When I first started teaching young learners, my immediate reaction was to be the problem-solver, to fix the situation for the students. Luckily, I worked at a daycare with some great teachers who always had a saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t listen to tattling. Why don’t you talk to Child about how you feel?”. Many children use tattling as a form of attention-getting, revenge, or a way to assert power over another, none of which foster a caring and supportive classroom.
That’s why, these days, when a child tells me another child hit him/her, I say, “Not my problem. You deal with it.” Just kidding . But I definitely don’t solve the problem for them. I think it’s so important for children to learn conflict resolution skills at an early age. Helping children to deal with difficult situations, control their emotions, and communicate effectively will serve them well for the rest of their life.
Instead of being the problem-solver, I simply act as a mediator. I help the children openly discuss their feelings with each other and encourage them to look at the situation from the other’s point of view. I then encourage them to discuss solutions. This process isn’t always easy and children will need lots of support, but the pay off is more than worth the time and investment.
Do you have any personal success stories using this type of mediation? How effective is it in your classrooms? Do you have other preferred methods of conflict resolution with young learners?