Until I was in my 30’s, I had never had a real conflict with a friend and worked it through to the end. Jan Waters and I had been great friends for years but then one day we had a disagreement that hurt feelings. Before working at SYC, I would typically just avoid bumping into that person again rather than talk through the conflict. But being a teacher at SYC had taught me to help kids work through conflicts with friends. Being in the SYC atmosphere gave me the courage to try it in my own relationships. So Jan and I talked, hugged cried and remained friends.
Why hadn’t I learned to do this as a child? It felt so wonderful to keep my important relationship even though it was hard to hear about mistakes I’d made or amends I needed to make. As early childhood educators, we know that the best time to learn skills to work through conflicts is early childhood! It’s great to know that our SYC students will be more prepared than I was as they move on in the world.
Here at SYC, we embrace conflict as a learning opportunity. Children feel more powerful and confident when they are actively engaged in solving their own problems. If the issue goes unaddressed, it will surely pop up at another time. Getting them together at some point to problem-solve the dispute is crucial.
Children need lots of practice to learn these problem solving skills; but having a few strategies to draw on has many rewards. Taking time to teach negotiation skills promotes new cognitive development and sets up thought processes that can progress to more analytical problem solving in grade school. It also gives kids options other than violence to turn to, as they begin to face lunchroom, playground and other elementary school problems. Being around young children gives us all a second chance to accept and learn how to work with our uncomfortable feelings. What a gift!
…Stephanie Rottmayer, Director