We are in the thick of election season and it’s getting pretty ugly. Just watch the news for an hour and you will see people, who are typically reasonable and who have social awareness, losing their minds when discussing politics. I find that some of the “reasoning” in these disagreements is the same that I hear in my older students when they are arguing with each other, their parents, their teachers or even with me. Often their default strategy in a disagreement is that whoever yells the most and the loudest “wins”. This is the model for conflict resolution that we frequently see on TV and in movies. Should we be surprised that culturally we struggle with this life skill ?
For my kids with social language impairments (and it’s far more than just students with ASD), learning how to “fight fair” and resolve conflict is a difficult lesson. This skill requires being able to take the point of view of another person, even if you don’t agree with them, listening to what is being said instead of just preparing a rebuttal in your head, and using self regulation skills to stay calm in emotional discussions. A lot of adults have a hard time doing this, so it’s imperative that we start teaching these skills from a young age and modeling them for our students. SEL (social emotional learning) lends itself beautifully to embedding this in our schools, and is just one tool that we can use. There are some great resources at Edutopia and Social Thinking to get you started. Chat with your school counselor and OT too for some great ideas to support your students SEL skills in the classroom. I’m guessing that your SEL squad will become rock stars in your building when your teachers see the positive benefits of their students learning and implementing these skills successfully.
My students are not incidental learners of social rules, particularly hidden rules (check out this fabulous post series from Chris Reeves of Autism Classroom Resources). Frankly, many of our general education friends are not picking up these conflict resolution skills either! I find that walking students through the steps of how to resolve conflict, discussing what is predictable and unpredictable, and then allowing them to practice, often helps them integrate this framework into their daily lives. It’s why I created this Agree to Disagree product in my TPT store. I also created a companion product, Apology:#Sorrynotsorry to work through the steps of a sincere apology when we stumble in our attempt to resolve conflict or disagreements.
It’s not a one time lesson however, and we need reminders and practice along the way. This election season is a great teaching tool (just search Youtube videos and preview) for older students about what NOT to do in disagreements. Your older students will be using conflict resolution skills in academic debating, writing and presenting persuasive essays or having to work on a group project with differing points of view. However, we shouldn’t wait until high school to teach these skills. We will be resolving conflict for the rest of our lives in way one or another, so we need to start early with our PreK babies on the playground and scaffold these skills as they grow and the problems become more complex. I think that’s something we can all agree on.
How do you teach conflict resolution skills? Share here!