Helping Children Solve Conflict
One of my personal favorite things about Montessori is how we help children solve conflict. In my classroom, there is a special table, called the peace table, that children visit when they are feeling mad, sad, or having trouble sharing. Here is how it works:
At our peace table, we have a very special rose called the peace rose. This is a table that is separate from the other tables in the classroom, and is used as a ‘sanctuary’ type of place where children can go if they want to be alone, feel upset, or need to solve a conflict with a peer. Here is an example of how it works:
Julie grabs a crayon from Mary and Mary says, “You’re not my friend anymore”. The teacher overhears this conversation, and invites the two children over to the peace table. At the peace table, Julie holds the rose first to talk, and says something like, “It hurt my feelings when you said you aren’t my friend anymore.” Mary gets to hold the peace rose next and says, “Well, I didn’t like that you took my crayon”. Julie may say, “ Well I really wanted to use it. Can I use it when you are done?” Mary agrees, and they agree to a hug to make peace. They feel that they were both heard and that the conflict has resolved.
The importance of using the peace table, rather than having that conversation at the table where the conflict happened, is it allows the children to meet on neutral territory, away from the heated object of conflict (ie the crayon). It teaches children that there is a method they can learn to solve conflict. The adult observes, only stepping in to mediate when the children are lacking the words to continue the dialogue. This is both an oral language lesson as much as it is a lesson on how to socialize with peers and reach compromise. We have a book in the classroom that goes with this curriculum called, “The Peace Rose” . I highly recommend this book for both home and school use. It is wonderful in its simplicity and the children really relate to the story. They regularly ask me to read this book at circle time.
The peace curriculum we use is based on Honoring the Light of the Child by Sonnie McFarland. The love light concept is not tied to any culture or belief system, it is simply the light of love that shines in all human beings. For the lesson, we have a cutout of a person who is our ‘peaceful person’. We shine a light through the person, so the children have a concrete example of the love light within all of us. When we are happy and feel loved, our love light shines brightly. The children are invited to wear the love light necklace in the classroom if they are feeling very happy and bright that day. Next, we talk about when we are sad or mad which makes our love light dim. This lets the children recognize their own emotions and have the opportunity to see a friend who is upset and say, “You look sad. I see your love light is dim. What can I do to help your love light shine bright?” We also introduce self-calming techniques to the children if they are feeling mad or sad, such as breathing. At home, you can invite your child to do a ‘lion breath’ or ‘horsey breath’ to help calm. You can also invite them to spread their ten fingers in front of their face and blow them out one at a time like candles on a birthday cake. The children have so much fun doing these breaths, it always brings a smile to their face!
Tip For Parents:
Sometimes children come to me and say, “I don’t like when (brother/sister) hits me at home. I think we should have a peace table at home.” If your child has siblings, I encourage you to use a peace table at home to help your children solve conflict. The best way to set it up is to find a quiet place in the house where you can fit a small table (it doesn't have to be big- even a stool could be the peace table) and place one or two self-calming objects on the table. You can teach your children to go to the table and take turns talking when they feel upset.
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