One of the hardest parts of co-oping can be knowing what to do when conflict is brewing between children. My kid is playing with the shovel, and your kid wants the shovel, and then my kid is hitting your kid with the shovel. (Sorry! We’re working on the shovel hitting!) Teachers Stephanie Waldo and Terry Crandall gave us some tips on how to resolve conflicts before they get to the shovel hitting stage, and how to help kids learn how to better handle things in the future.
Constant Vigilance! You want to spot a conflict before it escalates, Terry compared it to waitressing — you have to be very cognizant of what is happening in your section. When one kid starts sidling up to another or is keeping a close eye on a toy, it’s a good bet he’s going to make a grab for it.
Talk and talk and talk and talk… Before a kid makes a grab for anything, encourage him to use his words. “Can I have a turn when you are done?” If a tussle has begun, Stephanie likes to use, “Stop, Drop, and Reason.” Have both kids let go of the toy and help them find a compromise. If the kids are having a hard time on their own, you can set a limit: Lily can have the toy for two more minutes, then it’s Sasha’s turn.
Stay positive! Instead of telling the kids what not to do, emphasize behaviors you do want to see. If a kid is having a particularly hard day, Terry recommends sitting with him and pointing out good examples in his classmates. “Look at the way Anna is using gentle hands. Johnny and Billy are doing a really good job of taking turns.”
No (forced) apologies! Terry and Stephanie both cautioned against making a child say an insincere “Sorry!” Terry likes to ask lots of questions to help a kid understand their actions. “How would you feel if someone dumped sand on your head?” Stephanie suggested asking, “What can you do to help Emma feel better right now?” She also stresses the importance of acknowledging their feelings, and helping them to recognize the hurt feelings they have caused in others.
It’s not just about today. Stephanie emphasized that it isn’t all about perfect behavior every day. What we are trying to do is teach skills for handling conflict that will our children for their entire lives. It’s important to help them recognize their own feelings, and also how their actions make others feel.
Our teachers and Board also wanted to remind parents of a few practices that can help the day run smoothly for all children. They emphasized the following:
- Please be on time when you are co-oping! Your timeliness will help the class run more smoothly because you can get your outline from the teacher before school starts.
- Be even earlier on field trip days! It is helpful to get all carseats buckled in the appropriate cars before the official school start time so all drivers can be present for directions from the teachers in the classroom or parking lot.
- One of our roles as co-opers is to carefully monitor children to aid in conflict resolution and help prevent unwanted physical behaviors. We can do this by playing directly with children in the classroom. If we are involved with their play, we are frequently observing their behavior and aware of when we need to intervene. We want to give the children the freedom and tools to navigate social situations and resolve conflict on their own; however, occasionally we need to step in and model how to manage a situation. Modeling might include redirecting the children to use their words and problem-solve together. All of the teachers do an excellent job of giving the children the words to use! It might be as simple as reminding or asking them which words or strategies would help them.
- CCNS has recently updated our policy for dangerous behavior that is developmentally inappropriate. If you are curious to learn more about this policy, you may access it here.