Peaceful conflict resolution or Peace Talks are an integral part of your child’s Montessori education. Maria Montessori wrote and spoke about peace education throughout her life. Through her implementation of the Montessori method, she was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize three times. In this article, I will share information on our staff’s work towards peaceful conflict resolution and how that translates to the children in the Montessori classroom.
“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. [They] must first love and understand the universe. [They] must prepare [themselves], and truly work at it.”
Children want to be like the adults in their lives and mirror much of what they see and experience. When a person enters Montessori training, part of that training is the preparation of the teacher’s spirit and an analysis of their own perceptions and bias about education and children. Through group instruction, readings, and a lot of self-reflection, Montessori interns begin learning what it means to be a model for the children they serve.
Over the past two years, our staff has “truly worked at” resilience and non-violent communication. Last year we placed emphasis on the care of oneself. If you are drowning, you cannot be there for others. This year, we are working on what it means to hold each other accountable and use non-violent communication. As simple as it sounds, we adults often have a harder time expressing our needs and desires with others. We also often struggle with identifying our emotions, or feelings to properly understand and communicate our needs. In a nutshell, this is what we are working for:
There are two parts to NVC: Expressing Honestly and Receiving Empathically. Within those two parts we practice four components: Observing, Feeling, Needing, Requesting.
It might look something like this: Someone has said something to us and we begin to feel. Before we react, we observe what those feelings may be and why we are having them. When we understand our feelings, we can express our needs and then request those needs be met by the other person, (expressing honestly). Once we have communicated our need, we then must receive feedback from the other person who hopefully is also practicing NVC! We must then work to receive what they are saying with empathy, (receiving empathically) realizing the emotions that may arise in that person are usually not directly to do with us.
This really is an adult way of having what we say to the children, is a peace talk. For the child it may look like these steps: Say what you did not like, ask for what you need, give the other person a chance to respond.
With Primary or Elementary students:
Child A: “I didn’t like it when…” or “I felt__ when____” (Observing and feeling)
Child A: “I need you to…” or “Will you please…” (Need and request)
(Child B repeats back what child A did not like and what child A needs)
Child B responds if they can do what is requested and has a chance to share their own perspective.
Adult leads children to find solutions to the problem
“Child B can you do what Child A requested?” “How do we fix this problem?”
If they struggle, the adult may give a couple of solutions. Once a solution is agreed upon, the adult restates what the plan is and lets the children know they will check in to see how the plan is going.
For toddler students:
Peaceful conflict resolution begins with learning how to identify and communicate their emotions. This is accomplished by an adult assisting the child to name the emotion and why the child may feel that way. See the article in the Toddler section titled, Language Development in the Toddler by Ms. Kendyll for more information on this topic!
We are practicing together, but as with the children, it takes a lot of work and intention to get to a place where this comes naturally! Our team knows how important this work is. We will continue the work of communicating peacefully for our lifetimes. Part of this work is to help children identify their emotions and share with them these important communication skills.
If you would like to introduce and practice peace talks with your children:
Toddlers: Read to your child, Lots of Emotions by Shelley Rotner.
Primary: The Peace Rose by Alicia Olsen is commonly found in Montessori Primary classrooms and goes through the peace talk process in a picture book for young children.
Elementary: Read, The Whole-Brained Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. Use their graphic novel style explanations of emotions to spark conversations with your child. The Peace Stick by Nidhi Misra is a great book you can read together.
You: If you are interested in taking the steps towards non-violent communication, the book, Non-violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is a great start on that path!
By Lynette Goss
Head of School