The following is a reflection written by one of our three-year-old teachers, Deirdre:

Two three year olds are playing with blocks. Suddenly their voices raise in screams and then they are rolling over and over one another each hanging on to a block with one hand while they use the other to pummel their playmate.

Its time for me to go to work! For me, teaching young children simple conflict resolution skills is the most important part of my job. Of course, being a teacher number sense and literacy and very important to me as well. We spend hours each week planning our curriculum and considering carefully the learning needs of each child. But being able to successful resolve a problem peacefully with another

When I turn on the news in the morning and listen to a new litany of who was shot or killed the night before, it makes me so sad. Invariably both the perpetrator and the victim are young people. I can’t help but think that if they had been taught the skills necessary to talk out their conflict peaceably, they would be alive.

So when I hear the voices rise in my classroom, I push up my sleeves. The first thing I do is to intervene and diffuse the situation “Uh oh it sounds like there’s a problem here. Let’s solve this problem together!” In this way, I help the children to begin to shift their polarized positions towards more cooperative perspectives. My words signal that this is something we will consider as a team. The second step is to encourage the children to recognize their feelings, and the feelings of their friend. “Holly, you look really mad. Are you mad? Look at Johnny, does he have a mad face on too?”

By this time, actually coming up with a resolution that everyone can live with is usually the easy part. Both friends are looking at one another calmly. I suggest options, “would you like a turn using that block Johnny? Holly, can you give Johnny a turn in two minutes?”

We practice this script dozens of times a day in our classroom. The hope is that the children internalized these steps so that it becomes second nature to them when they are faced with conflict.