Montessori classrooms are rooted in a strong emphasis on peace and treating each other with respect. Conflicts, and how they are navigated, play an important role in establishing these roots. In the studio, a conflict comes in many forms; perhaps it’s a clash of interest among friends, or a struggle over a difference of opinion, or through establishing boundaries.
Though uncomfortable, we don’t see conflict at Ascent as a negative thing. If you look at conflict through a curious lens, it is a great learning tool. Conflict is a time when a person is filled with emotions, and can learn self-control, patience, active listening, and empathy. All of these important social skills are essential for problem-solving in the future. Montessori education empowers children to make their own decisions even when it comes to conflict resolution, sometimes with the help of a moderator. After all, humans have to learn how to navigate difficult social situations and how to be in a community with others, just as much as learning to read and add numbers – and the former creates an even greater challenge.
One important aspect of Montessori conflict resolution is to create an environment where children practice speaking respectfully, calming their bodies, and voicing their needs or boundaries. If there is a conflict over who will eat their snack first, or who will work with a particular material first, for example, they are supported in identifying the problem and are provided with language tools needed to express themselves. This can serve to validate the child’s feelings, and then help them find a peaceful solution. Guides support this process without judgment. They are simply there to offer comforting support and to hold the process.
In the Spark studios, we have adopted a 5-step system to navigate conflict resolution:
- Approach: Can I talk to you about a problem?
- Mindfulness: Take a breath and calm your body
- Intention: Place your hand on your heart and wish the other person well
- Verbalize without labeling: When you _____, this happened _____. Next time, please_______.
- Connect: High five, elbow bump, handshake, etc.
The system has given the learners the tools they need to successfully resolve conflicts with each other, without placing blame or relying on the guides to solve their problems for them. Children also gain confidence when they are actively being a part of finding a solution. The goal is to help the child learn to navigate conflicts and social situations on their own.
“Preventing conflicts is the work of politics: establishing peace is the work of education.”