Whether innate or learned, the ability to get along with others makes for a much more pleasant and productive life. Teaching students to get along with classmates is a skill that will serve them beyond their time in classrooms (and help minimize classroom scuffles in the meantime—a win, win!) Although this comes more naturally to some, here are 4 ways to help students create a habit of harmony:
1 Make explicit rules of respect, love, kindness, and sharing *
Develop classroom (or household) rules that are based on these traits. Rules should be stated in terms that all children can understand and posted in the classroom. For some additional buy-in, consider having students create their own list of rules at the beginning of the year, using graphics and pictures as needed. (This is also a good opportunity for teaching the Golden Rule and empathy)
2. Teach students to verbalize feelings, not blame through example and teaching of I-Messages.
When conflict or hurt feelings arise, you can model empathy and minimize escalation by addressing the feelings it has caused in the offended child instead of chastising the offender. For example, “How do you think Jenny feels when she doesn’t get a chance to share her idea?” , instead of “Stop interrupting ,Chloe.” In the same way, teach students to use I-messages to communicate their feelings: “When you interrupt me I feel frustrated and ignored”, rather than “You are being mean when you interrupt me”.
3. Help children develop coping strategies **
Because conflict is often part of collaboration, giving children coping strategies to process the tension and react appropriately is important. Possible coping strategies include:
- When angry, stop and think before you speak or react
- Take a breather/break and remove yourself from the situation that is making you hurt or angry.
- Seek help from an adult (especially in the case of bullying, etc)
- Make time to talk with the other person about reaching a compromise/resolution
- Ignore the other person.
- Make a joke/ change the subject
- Write/journal about the frustration and possible motivation of people involved.
Role-playing different scenarios is a good way to have students practice these strategies and gives them a variety of reactions to select among (they can pick ones that are natural for them so they will actually use the strategy).
4. Give students to opportunity to work together—and then work our their differences.
Remind students of the importance of empathy and diversity: Part of growing up means being able to consider things from another person’s point of view, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. When you try to see where the other person is coming from, it’s easier to stay calm and work toward a solution. Experiencing a variety of thoughts and people can make for a rich, interesting life experience.
What other suggestions can you add to this list?
*For 2nd and 3rd grade students, see our “Getting Along with Others” program which teaches how to identify and respect others’ feelings.