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Psycho-Educational Guidelines for Handling Conflict and Fights

Psycho-Educational Guidelines for Handling Conflict and Fights

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Skills for mediating conflict and arguments between students.
Skills for mediating conflict and arguments between students.

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Published by: The Psycho-Educational Teacher on Jul 01, 2012
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01/01/2014

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Psycho-Educational Guidelines for HandlingConflict and Fights
Carmen Y. Reyes
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On this article, I focus on strategies that teachers can use to handle conflictbetween students. When handling conflicts and disagreement, the main role for theteacher is one of mediator or facilitator, where the teacher assists troubled andangry children in clarifying their concerns, as well as in problem solving.
Leviton and Greenstone (1997) define the mediator‟s role as an individual that
provides a neutral environment where both parties in conflict feel treated fairly.The mediator also helps to identify the issues, and in clarifying those issues,making sure that each individual understands what the other person is saying andchecking frequently for mutual understanding. When the mediator is also a teacher,
 
the teacher guides the students in conflict in considering alternative ways of handling the problem. Other things a teacher can do as a mediator are:
Make sure the students know and respect the boundaries. Introduce the rules,assign the tasks, use the space wisely (e.g., have the two students sit apart), and useyour own body wisely; for example, use your body to separate the two students.Narrow the emotional gap between the two students by pointing out the similaritiesand minimizing the differences between them.Help the students see advantages in having a difference between them; forexample, in having different opinions about the same issue, in having differentviews of the same situation, and in having different ways of responding to the sameevent or problem.
Point out positive aspects of each child‟s behavior that the other child perceives
negatively.Detach yourself from the problem. See yourself as offering support to bothstudents, not taking sides. Become a detached observer and participant.Be a judge, bringing the two students together for a face-to-face hearing or talkingto each child separately. Restate the conflict in your own words, and ask each childif you restated it well.Let the students know that you understand them, and that you are mediating for
 both children‟s benefit.
 Remember that listening to a child does not mean that you are agreeing with whatthe child is saying.Create a non-blaming view of the problem in which neither child feels that he is toblame for the conflict. Help the students see the conflict as a problem they bothshare and not as something for which the other child is responsible.Help the students talk about the conflict in a descriptive, behavioral (describingwhat they see and hear), and no-blaming way.Rather than see the other child as the enemy, find a common ground and see oneaspect of the behavior as the enemy. For example, instead of blaming William for
 pushing, see “pushing in line” as a problem that affects everybody in the
 
classroom, including William. This approach gives the teacher-mediator the toolsto develop a collaborative alliance in solving a mutual problem.Use an
umbrella conflict definition
, using terms like
cooperative alliances,teammates,
and
we.
 Explain to children that all human interaction is mutual and reciprocal; that is,when we interact with others, we give and take in the same amount. What one
 person does is context for the other person‟s behavior, affecting the other person
and creating a reaction in the other person.Develop
empathy
, encouraging the students to talk about the sad feelings andresponses they had instead of the angry feelings and responses. The other childhears about the hurt, not the anger. You may need to suggest feelings.Ask one child to elaborate on sadness, and have the other student paraphrase.Sequence the conflict focusing on feelings and responses to help students see itsinteractive nature, and to help students express feelings behaviorally; for example,
“After Theresa said _____, how did you try to let her know how much her words
hurt you? So, that is how she responded to you. How do you feel about what
 you
 said/ did next? Did your response give you something you wanted or were
expecting?”
 Ask the child speaking to express her concerns focusing on herself; for example,
“Wait a minute here…lower the tone of your voice, speak slower, and only talk 
about _____ (what you said, what you did, or your feelings). Do not talk about
what Linda said or did. Linda will tell me that.” Teach students to use a
self-focus
 rather than focusing on the other student.
Direct the child speaking to use “I” statements such as, “I feel _____,” “I like _____,” and “I do not like _____.”Prepare the listener; for example, “While Kevin is talking about what is troubling
him, your job is to pay attention and to listen to him closely. After he is finished,you have to tell me
as fully as possible what Kevin just said.”
 Direct the two students to speak directly with one another.Do not let one child monopolize the conversation. Obtain symmetry by switching
the speaker‟s and the listener‟s roles.
 

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