In a world of “One Punch Can Kill”, why are kids facing opposition still being taught to fight?
Children who lack conflict resolution skills are like ships without rudders. Being steered by their fight or flight instincts, they resort to school brawls, absenteeism, self-harm and other ineffective “solutions” to problems they encounter. Parents whose own caregivers taught them to stand up for themselves by raising their fists only perpetuate the fighting cycle, creating a new generation who think that the only way to deal with disagreements is through violence. Having no understanding of the behavioural patterns being embedded, and in the absence of known alternatives, conflict and bullying are perpetuated rather than resolved.
THE COSTS OF UNRESOLVED CONFLICT
Unresolved conflict is costly to everyone involved. It can rob families of quality family time, and teachers and students of quality learning time. It can be expensive when specialists are needed to step in and offer support, and it can be overwhelming to schools, parents and children alike. Well- meaning but desperate Mums and Dads may provide advice that, with unforeseen repercussions, does their child more harm than good.
PARENT RESPONSES MATTER
Common parenting problems usually involve stepping in and “managing” issues for your child, leaving them feeling disenfranchised and setting up an unhealthy dependence on your assistance. These kids end up with no resilience, no “grit”. Similarly, those children who are taught to report everything to the nearest teacher, aka “dobbing”, rob themselves of the opportunity to creatively problem-solve and otherwise engage their higher order thinking skills. Without showing children more appropriate ways to respond to adversity, we are risking the production of a cohort of hotheads or drop-outs who are ruled by their emotions and negative thinking.
RULED BY OUR FEELINGS
Parents who themselves fall victim to their feelings may encourage their children to respond to conflict by emotionally hurting their adversary. These children grow into adults who try to exercise intimidation and “power over” other people, repeatedly manipulating and controlling others for their own personal gain. The anxiety that is regularly a result of unresolved conflict can result in depression and even suicide. Long-term physical stress can lead to a reduced immune system, making children more susceptible to illnesses and ailments.
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE
There is another way. All of the negative by-products of unsettled encounters with individuals who clash can be combated by helping youngsters to reframe their thinking, to calm their physiological responses to tension and by teaching them how to build bridges which bond people into happy and safe relationships. For example, they can take the time to actively listen to one another and then brainstorm win-win situations where both parties have their needs met.
But we must be a united front. We must do it together.
A COMMON GOAL
If we want to create schools and communities that are safe and respectful, we must be consistent in our message to young people. Punitive reactions only against perpetrators can result in a missed opportunity for all involved to profit from essential conflict resolution learning for life. This learning builds children up to prepare them for similar difficulties in future. Don’t allow yourself to feel powerless any more, encouraging your child to fall back on the same unproductive comebacks whose success was limited even for you, and which plague you to this day. Don’t let your kids repeat your mistakes.
Jocelyne is an author, speaker, researcher, consultant and parent of three. Jocelyne has been a teacher for 30 years and specialised as a Social and Emotional consultant for the past 20 years supporting over 90 schools in conflict and bullying programs. Jocelyne is a crusader, on a crusade to create safer and friendlier schools and communities full of people
who have confidence in their value and who enjoy healthy relationships. Jocelyne is the founder of EMPOWERING Life Skills and the creator of the BRIDGE BUILDERS® Program which equips schools with a universal understanding, skills and language to deal with everyday conflict and bullying. She is the author of EMPOWERED for Life – Equipping children to deal with everyday conflict and bullying.
In 2018 Jocelyne has released the BRIDGE BUILDERS® Online Program to equip adults with the knowledge and resources to empower children for life. It has over 100 teaching videos, games, clickable interactives, quizzes and activities to link with the National Curriculum and make learning fun, relevant and lasting.
You can find out more about her and her programs at www.EmpoweringLifeSkills.com.au