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How children treat each other in the classroom is equally as important as what they learn. Skills such as cooperation, assertion, responsibility and self-control are essential to their academic and social success. As you plan ahead for the 2015/16 school year, be aware that you may need to teach or reinforce these skills, along with your therapy plans and materials, during the course of the school day.

When children learn to resolve their own conflicts, the academic atmosphere becomes far more pleasant and productive for everyone. You can spend more time teaching and making progress with therapy – and your students can spend more time learning.

Steps to Take

Conflict resolution is generally best introduced around the fourth or fifth week of school, once children are familiar with their basic routines and with one another. Teach them these basic steps to address the disputes that will inevitably arise:

  • Calming down and bringing emotions into balance.
  • Explaining the nature of the upset.
  • Discussion and resolution.
  • Acknowledgement, such as a handshake or a high five.

An effective approach involves children composing an “I Statement” to help them deliver high-emotion information. The basic format reads as follows: “When you _______________________, I feel _________ because _____________________________, so what I would like is __________________.”

For example, “When you say my backpack looks weird, I feel sad because I just got it and I really like it, so I’d like you to talk about something else when I see you at school.”

It helps to generate a list of “feeling words” to help students expand their vocabulary and get their message across. A typical list would include words like “scared, sorry, sad, frustrated” and “nervous.” Display the list on a flip chart or whiteboard so children can easily refer to it.

The Dispute Resolution Meeting

Using the I Statements as the basis, your role is to facilitate a conflict resolution meeting for your students when needed. As a preview, listen to a child’s I Statement to make sure it is legitimate and that they are ready to present it.

  • The first child starts the meeting by making their I Statement.
  • The second child listens and repeats back their understanding of what was said.
  • Once the first child agrees that the second child has heard correctly, the second child may make their own I Statement.
  • This back-and-forth routine continues until both students are satisfied that an understanding has been reached and peace has been made. The meeting concludes with an acknowledgement.
  • While often a child will apologize at some point during a conflict resolution meeting, never require it.
  • As facilitator, you are there to ensure safety and protocol, but you should speak as little as possible.

Learning when to intervene in classroom disputes and how to deal with conflict is an essential life skill and as a school-based therapist, you may play a significant role in helping your students to master it.

For additional tools and resources to enhance your work, as well as current therapy career opportunities in your specialty field, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.


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