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Communication and Conflict Newsletter, Issue #012, Teach Conflict Resolution in Schools? Why?
January 14, 2009

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Conflict Resolution in Schools?

Teach Conflict Resolution in Schools? Why?
(....or, let's understand and then practice effective conflict resolution ourselves first, before we decide to 'teach' it to children.....)

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The Communication and Conflict Newsletter is no longer published although the archives can still be visited via the above link. Instead, Alan Sharland now produces a blog associated with his organisation CAOS Conflict Management - you can visit this and sign up by clicking on the banner below:

CAOTICA the CAOS Conflict Management Blog

Hi Everyone, Happy New Year to you!

Welcome to Newsletter no.12 - January 2009

While I wouldn't disagree with the idea of anyone learning conflict resolution skills because of the benefits it can bring to their immediate or future situations where they will, inevitably, experience conflict, I am often a little disturbed by the suggestion that we should 'teach it in schools'.

The phrase is often heard when there has been repeated episodes of violence of one form or another, whether it is stabbings or shootings by young people, or some other violent incident such as terrorist activity and it is found that the perpetrators are young people who live or lived among us.

I have, on occasion been asked to work in schools and apart from in one school, the experience has been the same. Those who attend the training are as lost about dealing with conflict as the children they work with but they want 'strategies to give to pupils' on 'how to deal with conflict and violence' as though they were teaching a mathematical formula, or grammar.

The idea that you can 'spoon feed' conflict resolution 'strategies' to children ignores the fact that if that were possible we would have all created a peaceful, 'conflict free' world long ago. But that will never be possible, because conflict is inevitable, but resolvable, but it isn't resolved via a formula that works in all situations.

Conflict arises because we are all different and do not behave according to pre-ordained programming and do not exhibit formulaic responses to each other - despite what some behavioural scientists might have us believe.

But, it is a nice comforting thought to believe that 'all we need to do is teach children to resolve conflict' and the world will be a better place.

No pressure there then, on our children?

Thanks, Mum, Thanks Dad, Thanks Teacher, Thanks Government, you carry on with your violent ways and we'll pick up the pieces. By the way, which one of you was it who was going to teach us how to resolve conflict?

The fact is that children are just as capable of resolving their disputes as adults are, it's just that we notice it and feel more ashamed when we see a child carry out violence. While we carry on far more easily when adults carry out violence throughout the world, continually and on a far greater scale.

The idea that 'adults' simply by virtue of being 'adults' are any more capable at resolving their conflicts than children is a fantasy.

So how authentic does that look when the adult conflict resolution expert comes into the room to 'teach children conflict resolution strategies'.

I'm not saying there aren't conflict resolution practitioners who are excellent at exploring with others their innate capacities to resolve conflict. Whether children or adults. The distinction between the two is unnecessary and misleading.

The idea that 'adults' simply by virtue of being 'adults' are any more capable at resolving their conflicts than children is a fantasy.

And it's an abdication of our own responsibilities, as adults, to sort ourselves out first before we start thinking we have something to 'bestow' on children.

There are very few adults who do not have some form of unresolved interpersonal conflict with their partner or other family member or their work colleagues or their neighbours or a combination of these or even conflicts within themselves. And in most cases the length of time and depth and chronic state of that conflict is far worse than we would find amongst children.

So are we showing by example how to constructively approach resolution of our conflicts with others and within ourselves and a willingness to do so?
A person's age is no symbol of their ability to resolve conflict. Only their actions, whatever age they are.

I've met people in their 80's and 90's who behave in ways that would be condemned in young people and I've met children as young as 5 who have shown incredible insight into the causes of an escalating conflict and have created ways forward that effectively resolved it.

A person's age is no symbol of their ability and willingness to resolve their conflict. Only their actions, whatever age they are.

I reiterate what I said above that it is always a good idea for someone to be given an opportunity to reflect on their responses and seek to create more effective ways of responding to conflict whether children in schools or adults. I'm not for one minute suggesting it should not be something we practice with children.....
Quotation Corner:
Everybody who rescues is angry at having to do it. When they realise that they no longer have to heal the world as they were encouraged to do in childhood, at a time when they were least capable of doing it, and that in fact they are far more effective if they let other people take care of themselves, they are much happier.

From: Love Your Disease:It's Keeping You Healthy - Dr John Harrison

But not because they are children, as if we can turn our backs on our own responsibilities to respond to conflict more effectively in the hope that we can pass them on to future generations to sort out for us.

Only we can sort out our own disputes and difficulties.

Because they are ours!

Not our children's.

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Recommended Books

Zen in the Art of Helping (Arkana) is great little book that looks at similar themes to that of this newsletter though not specifically in relation to children: This is a quote the author uses in the book in his chapter on Compassion:

There are many people who spend all their time giving aid to the needy and joining movements for the betterment of society. To be sure, this ought not to be discounted. But their root anxiety, growing out of their false view of themselves and the universe, goes unrelieved, gnawing at their hearts and robbing them of a rich and joyous life. Those who sponsor and engage in such social betterment activities look upon themselves, consciously or unconsciously, as morally superior and so never purge their minds of greed, anger and delusive thinking. But the time comes when, having grown exhausted from all their restless activity, then can no longer conceal from themselves their basic anxieties about life and death. Then they seriously begin to question why life has not more meaning and zest. Now for the first time they wonder whether instead of trying to save others they ought not to save themselves first. (from The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.

Challenging stuff but very relevant to the practice of Conflict Resolution and our motivations for trying to help others resolve their conflicts, and also relevant to the Quotation Corner quote by Dr John Harrison.

I Need Your Love - Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead by Byron Katie. Katie helps us on the path to what Philip Kapleau describes above - finding out how to save ourselves first, before we think we can save others.

Would you like to create your own income generating website?

Site Build It!

Click here to find out how I went about creating the Communication and Conflict website.

Here's a little feel good video. If possible, watch it with the sound on.

One world!

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Consultation via Skype.

Would you like:

  • Conflict coaching to support you in a difficult situation to find more effective ways of responding?
  • Mentoring, if you are a Mediator or other conflict resolution practitioner, to support you in reviewing and developing your practice?

conflict coaching If you have Skype and would like to arrange a consultation, please go to the Conflict Coaching and Mediator Mentoring page to send me details of what you would like to discuss and proposed times to call me.

Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world so there will not be any telephone cost, just the fee for the consultation which is a fixed charge per minute.

Some links that you may find interesting...... by Stephanie Goddard - a website very much in line with the thinking of this site. Stressed Out at Work AGAIN? Work Stress Is NOT Caused By -Your Difficult Coworkers - Your Diet - Your Lack of Time...So What Causes Work Stress? Stress is caused by only one thing....the way you think. Stephanie has 2 great books: 101 Ways to Have a Great Day at Work and 101 Ways to Love Your Job is an excellent resource of information relating to mediation. There are articles, links to websites and blogs as well as the possibility of locating mediators in your area. - is a comprehensive guide to information about Self Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web. is a rich source of information, quotes and support to enable us to find and be true to ourselves.

Oh Wow This Changes Everything is a great site with an enormous number of links to articles about different aspects of effective communication and conflict resolution. Definitely worth a could be there for hours! helps people, like yourself, create change in their life and business. They share fun stress management strategies and personal development articles.

New This site is sooo full of great links and resources relating to Co-operative Communication skills - I would very much recommend it.

Learning Supersite is a fascinating site dedicated to the development of informal learning. "A new approach to learning, the Learning Supersite is a venue that provides personal learning community, but with state-of-the-art Web technologies."

Transforming Conflict is an excellent organisation which works with young people, and adults, in educational settings, promoting restorative approaches to conflict.

Aik Saath This is an amazing and interesting website, quite besides the work of Aik Saath that it promotes. Aik Saath works to promote conflict resolution skills in young people and the development of peace and racial harmony in Slough, UK and its surrounding areas.

Would you like to build your own website?.....this is how I built mine... I Love SBI!

So, how did you like it?

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