“Ms. Woodward! She’s being mean to me!” “Mom, he went in my room again!” “Mr. Garcia, Sam won’t play with me.” If these outbursts sound familiar, you’ve probably found that every fix was temporary. And frustrating. But don’t worry, most teachers and parents feel the same way.
So what to do? If you can’t fix these problems, who will?
For years, I tried solving problems for my students only to have them come back with the same exact issue a week later. Then I started to research conflict resolution, reading everything I could find on bullying and peace. I then took a course from Teachers Without Borders on peace in the classroom and began to experiment with tools for solving conflicts.
That’s when I hit on the idea of Peace Cards. Once I started using them, I was amazed at the results. They really work.
They empower children to come up with solutions themselves.
Here are the steps I go through with my students:
First, you’ll need to teach them the three types of conflict resolution.
Materials: Index cards, markers or crayons, whiteboard.
Step 1) Write the following on the board, chart paper or electronic whiteboard:
a) Passive = Giving in to another. (lose, win)
b) Aggressive = Attacking another. (lose, lose)
c) Assertive = Be firm with desired outcome. (win, win)
Step 2) Explain to children that these are the three ways that conflicts or problems can be resolved.
Step 3) Give examples of each. a) Passive might be when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other gives it freely. In this case the victim loses but the bully wins.( lose, win) b) Aggressive might be when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other responds by punching him in the nose. In this case both get hurt and in trouble. (lose, lose) c)Assertive vocabulary is when one child says, “Give me your lunch money,” and the other responds with a strong no without resorting to name calling. (win,win)
I usually invite a student to role play these choices with me, overacting in a silly way with overly exaggerated gestures to get them to laugh about how ridiculous it is to punch a kid (for aggressive behavior) or to shrink away with a Charlie Brown voice (for passive behavior.) Then we role play the assertive no demonstrating the effectiveness of standing up for yourself peacefully.
Step 4) Write three headings on the board
Passive Aggressive Assertive
Ask students to give examples of when they’ve experienced each and record their responses.
Step 5) Show students examples of Peace Cards. Go over good choice examples written on the back. Then Pass out index cards and invite children to make their own positive choice for conflict resolution. They draw and write a caption for a good choice.
Step 6) Collect. Place inside a basket or a box in a easily visible place. This will remind the class of positive choices for the future. Tell students that if they ever have a conflict with another child in the future they can make a new card or share an existing one with him/her.
Follow up: Now whenever students have conflicts that do not need serious intervention by an adult, tell them to use these tools. Have the disagreeing children discuss how to come up with a win-win situation and then invite them to make Peace Cards about how they could handle the situation better.
You’ll be surprised at their solutions.
A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles. She also cowrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.