I love the concept of peace being an active process. It is something we can make, and we can actively model how to do that so the children in our classrooms can work together to achieve a peaceful community. Learning how to resolve conflicts and coexist peacefully may be some of the most important skills our children can acquire. It is important to remember that like any other skill, children need time to practice in a safe environment, and that with practice, the skill gets easier and more automatic. The more we ride a bike, the easier it gets, and the less we need to consciously work on balance. The same is true of using conflict resolution skills and making peace ~ the more we practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Montessori education uses various tools to help children practice making peace.
With babies and toddlers, the focus is on establishing a peaceful and loving environment, in supporting their emotional and social development, and in developing strong and trusting relationships. This allows our youngest children to develop a positive and trusting attitude.
In the children’s house, the peace rose is an aid to helping children take turns using their words to solve a problem. When you hold the peace rose, it is your turn to talk and the other child’s turn to listen. We model how to use this format: I feel ____________ when _________________ because ______________ and I would like ______________________. “I feel hurt when you run away from me on the playground because I feel left out and I would like you to let me play in your games.” “I feel mad when you knock down my tower because it took me a long time to build and I would like you to respect my work.” The rose is then passed to the other child. “I want to play with lots of friends. I don’t like it when you want to play with only me. I want to play with you, but I want to play with my other friends, too.” “I am sorry. I won’t knock down your tower again.” This process encourages active listening, and active problem solving using words. This is so much better than hitting, calling names, pouting, sulking, or throwing a tantrum.
At the elementary level, the children participate in classroom meetings, focused on acknowledging the contributions of one another to the classroom community, and then engaging in group problem solving. The older children can run the classroom meetings, gaining practice in leadership skills, too. Problems discussed might include children not reshelving their books in the library area, hogging materials for a long time so no-one else can use them, being too loud and preventing other children from concentrating, leaving children out during playground games . . . The children may keep a peace journal to record their own and others contributions to the peace of the classroom community. This is a beautiful way to help children become aware of peace being an ongoing process, needing careful tending.
What I love about these peacemaking activities is the focus on being open to discussing problems and actively working together to find solutions. We could all learn from our children. They are so generous in accepting an apology, in owning up to a mistake and saying sorry.
Our children are the hope of our future. Let’s help them grow in tolerance and acceptance. Let’s help them grow to be leaders in making peace. That’s what our world needs!
Photos below: Peace journal, a step by step guide to making peace for the elementary aged child, children successfully solving a problem about sharing building materials (Just look at their happy faces – this was a win/win problem solving session), the peace rose in action in the classroom.