Thursday, March 1, 2012
Gentling the violence
While at the AMI Refresher Course, my friend Annie shared with me a technique for mediating conflicts that I've been trying out for a few days. It was shown to her by the trainer Janet McDonell, who was also the presenter at this year's Refresher course. It's called "Gentling the Violence". What I loved about it is how simple it is and how much connection it can convey with minimal talking and minimal intrusion. It seems very appropriate especially for the younger Primary age children, with whom a lot of explanation and detective work is never really helpful. Also, the adult presents herself like a calming force, and not like a problem solver.
Of key importance here is that there already an established trust between children and the adult. This is a topic in and of itself, but suffice to say now, if when you approach children they run away, it's not going to work.
When a conflict occurs where children could use some guidance, the adult can approach them and put her arms around both of them. I really think that if the adult is genuinely serene, and the arms are communicate love, just that simple touch and the closing of the space can begin the process of soothing.
With an calm facial expression, the adult asks the children "Is there something you would like to say?" This is not necessarily directed towards one of the children, it is just put out there as an invitation for either child to speak. Whoever needs it. In my experience so far, sometimes there is a barrage of words and sometimes the children don't really have a lot to say. It has been amazing for me to notice how when approached this way, the children have been much more clear about what their problem was to begin with, than when I ask a lot of questions.
When the talking is finished, the adult asks "Is there something you would like to do?" This is the invitation for action. In some cases in my experience so far, the children say no, they seem more calm, and they go back to what they were doing. But in some cases they want to actively make amends.
I want to give this system a little more time before I decide exactly what benefits it has in our community and in which situations it is best to use. But so far, with small disagreements where children want an adult to help, it has been great.
For independent conflict resolution I've found that having a "peace flower" or a "peace rug" are very helpful tools.