SETTING LIMITS/ RESOLVING CONFLICTS
One issue underlies all our limit-setting and conflict resolution: SAFETY, physical and emotional. Identification, empathy, and respect flourish among children in a safe, secure climate.
The staff does as much preventive work as possible. We keep play areas from becoming confusingly messy or overcrowded, and we supply enough materials to minimize competition and boredom. We make reasonable limits for our children, conveying them in an informative way rather than issuing do’s and dont’s. “Garbage goes in that can by the gate,” is more neutral and informative to a child than, “Throw away your garbage, please.”
We model and facilitate negotiating strategies. “Why don’t you tell him, ‘We’re in the middle of a game right now. You can play here when we’re done,’ and then we’ll find him another place to play.”
We try to build vocabulary whenever unexpressed feelings are building up tensions. “That annoyed you? Do you want to tell her?”
We have a simple set of aggression prevention rules: When you don’t like something someone has done, say “Please stop.” If they don’t listen, come and tell a teacher.
When the possibility for communication has broken down between children (or when they are so excited to be together that their need to impress each other outweighs their good sense), they might need to be separated for awhile until they have regained enough composure to sort things out by discussion.
Children behave antisocially when they are afraid, hurt, and angry. Sometimes the surges of adrenalin that accompany these feelings are too volatile to be channelled into language and are more easily discharged in physical and creative activities. The staff helps children find such outlets.
Much hostility is due to a tendency to feel dread around newcomers. The staff considers itself responsible for introducing and reintroducing the children to each others’ names, interests, and innate friendlinesses. We also work hard to walk that fine line between respecting children’s needs for privacy and discouraging their tendencies to exclude.
We do not use corporal punishment or deprivation of any kind.
We do, however, sometimes pick children up or take them by the hand if they cannot leave unsafe situations, usually after having been given verbal warnings. Almost all our physical contact with the children, though, is in response to their needs for comfort and affection.