School conflicts are common. Arguments or malice among peers is not uncommon. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid misunderstandings between students and teachers because school reality can be demanding and difficult for both parties. The situation becomes even more complicated when there is a third party, the parents. No one is surprised that they intervene when something goes wrong in their child’s school life. What and how should be done to resolve a school conflict without harming either party?
Disputes with other children
Conflicts between children at school are, and it is hard to expect, that they will cease to arise. Wherever people work, learn, cooperate or – they simply stay – problems can arise, develop and escalate. Conflicts accompany human action, they are inevitable. The school community consists of such different people that it is not difficult to find a reason for a dispute. Children come from different families, their value systems are different, they follow different rules and different norms regulate their behavior. Past experiences have produced beliefs in them, which they usually treat as unquestionable truth about the world, about people, about good and evil. Children believe that other people see, feel, understand similarly, and it is obvious that this is not the case.
When analyzing the conflict, students refer to their intentions, their understanding of the problem. They are usually convinced that they behave well when they are well-intentioned. They do not take into account differences in perception and understanding of reality. This problem also eludes many adults – parents, and teachers, who sometimes take into account only their point of view in the conflict and judge the behavior of others from this point of view. As a consequence – people involved in the conflict feel that they are its victims, and they call their “enemies” torturers, aggressors.
Interfere or not?
So what can a parent who learns from a child that the child is aggrieved, unfairly treated, or wronged in conflict? Should he intervene?
It depends. His reaction should depend on several factors.
First – the scale of the problem. If it is a minor conflict, it is worth limiting your participation to trying to analyze it with the child. You can take a look at the situation and discuss ways of alleviating it together. It is worth provoking the child to look at the conflict from different positions. Let us ask how it started, who started it, how a child sees it, and also how the other side can see it. Remember that it is not conflicts that are the problem of children or conflicted parties, but how they are solved. To teach a child to solve interpersonal problems well – that is, one that brings them closer not distances them – you need to talk to them about the conflict together.
Let us listen to what the child has to say. Let us ask: How is she? Does he react? How does he perceive this conflict? How can the other side see it, feel it, understand it? What were the circumstances of the conflict? Let’s listen! But let’s not provide solutions. Participation in a conflict is our daily routine, it takes place without our will and we often do not influence the fact that it occurs. However, it can be an opportunity to acquire our child’s social skills, such as understanding oneself and others, learning empathy, compassion, critical thinking, etc. So let’s try to use the situation to learn social coexistence.
A conversation about a conflict can also be an opportunity to get to know the child better, his way of looking at the situations in which he participates, his reasons, positions, and choices. For us, it is an opportunity to show that we can listen with attention, understanding, and respect for children’s observations and choices. Children will not learn much about giving their solutions to a conflict. On the other hand, it deprives him of the possibility of experiencing himself, a sense of autonomy, agency, building confidence in himself and his decisions, and training social behavior.
If the conflict is serious and the physical or mental safety of the child or the other party to the conflict is at stake – then we should react firmly. In such a situation, it is worth contacting the perpetrator or victim of the conflict, with their parents and, for example, arranging a meeting aimed at mediating the resolution of the problem. It is worth talking to the tutor or teacher, pedagogue, school psychologist to find out more about the situation. It is important to avoid mutual accusations and concentrate on understanding the problem and resolving it constructively. In this arrangement, we show the child that there are consequences for decisions and actions because the perpetrator should be punished and that compensation is owed.
Whether or not we will intervene should also depend on the age of the child. Younger children are not able to control their emotions well, to cope with, for example, the aggressiveness of their peers, and the parent’s help may be necessary. We should assess the situation and engage ourselves to the extent appropriate to the child’s needs, paying attention not to solve problems, but rather teach the child to take the trouble.
The situation is different for older children. Teenagers often do not want their parents to “interfere” with their peers’ relationships. However, they may need support (when conflict is difficult to resolve) and understand that errors in problem-solving at the adolescent level are still common. You should talk to teenagers, provoke them to understand the situation (analysis from different sides), and encourage them to take responsible solutions. It is important for children to know and feel that their parents are supportive, take them seriously and try to understand their point of view.
Whether we will participate – and to what extent – in conflict resolution should also depend on the child’s expectations. It is not worth rushing to school or calling a friend’s parents whenever the child declares that something – for him – unpleasant has happened. Let the child deal with it on his own, because in adulthood he will not avoid conflicts. If necessary, let’s discuss the situation, ask about the proposed solution, let’s get involved to the extent that the child needs it.
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The problem between the teacher and the student
In family relationships, dialogue and partnership dominate more and more often, which makes it difficult for the student to find himself in the classical school framework, where a slightly different discipline reigns. Lack of consistency in the cooperation model can lead to conflicts between the student and the teacher. The parent is then faced with a difficult situation, asking himself “Whose side should I be on?” Especially that the school often expects the parent’s intervention. So how do you show support for your child? And at the same time not adopt a hostile attitude towards the teacher?
From extreme to extreme
Very often, parents make a mistake, acting under the influence of their own beliefs and experiences from school years. When a misunderstanding occurs between their child and their teacher, they recall their failures and humiliations. It happens that the feeling of helplessness that they experienced when they went to school on their own comes back to them. These emotions determine the perception of the child’s relationship with the teacher, which – instead of easing the conflict – motivates him to a forceful, intrusive resolution.
Such an attitude does not help the child, on the contrary – it puts him in an even more difficult situation in dealing with the teacher. A parent who imposes a solution on a child does not give him a chance to analyze, evaluate and try to resolve the conflict on his own. It’s a pity because the child could learn the desired skill, which is conflict resolution with the supervisor. It would be better to ask the question – how is he going to behave and what the consequences may be. Maybe it is worth encouraging you to look for a few solutions and choose the optimal one?
An attitude of the parent
Sometimes parents behave quite the opposite – they believe that no one will win with the teacher and that nothing can be done when a conflict arises between the teacher and the student. Such an attitude of the parent teaches the child helplessness and helplessness and builds the conviction that it is impossible to win with the “stronger” one. The “withdrawing” parent does not shape the child’s sense of justice, self-respect, or demand that their rights are respected. This attitude probably aims to protect the child from additional troubles. But it may make them feel abandoned in a difficult situation and not learn to “fight for theirs”. Even if the parent is not convinced that his child is innocent, he should show him loyalty and support.
Then it will gain a lot in the eyes of the child. It is worth asking the child a few questions about the problem to show its possible complexity, ambiguity. It is worth asking about the motives, facts, and their interpretation. Together with the child, let’s look for answers to the following questions: Who and what rights have been violated? What was the cause and what was the result of the conflict? How can it be solved constructively? What appeals procedure can be used to prove that a child has been harmed and to defend his or her rights?
When the teacher invites you to an interview
If the teacher invites us to talk about our child’s behavior, it is worth talking to him at home first. His account should be listened to. Making it clear that we are interested in what he thinks about the problem. That his needs are respected and that he can count on our support. If we feel that the way a child tells about the situation is inappropriate, we should bring it to his attention. It is important to reassure your child that you understand their anger, but also to explain that they must not be a reason to be offensive about someone.
The next step is meeting the teacher. Let us listen carefully to him, let him outline the situation through his eyes. Let us not judge, attack, or inform him about the effects his behavior had on the child. To introduce the teacher to the previously thought-out expectations and show the situation from our perspective. If he has a different point of view. Let us respect this and suggest that we jointly seek solutions to the problem for the sake of the child. Let us remember that we cannot perceive the teacher as having authority over us and the child. We have the right to expect that in the event of any disagreements. He will be ready to cooperate and support us in solving the problem with his actions.
Before the conflict arises
The parent’s role does not begin when a conflict arises, be it with the teacher or with another child. From an early age, we should prepare children to deal with problematic situations. Conflicts are inevitable, but they can be constructive, even creative. It is worth talking about various solutions, showing how you can reach a consensus. An opportunity for talks may be the analysis of conflicts that arise in life. In the film watched, in the books you’ve read. Sibling disagreements can also be an opportunity to discuss difficult situations that can happen at school. We will teach children how to defend themselves when they are under attack. And who they can turn to for help when they are unable to solve the problem themselves. They need to know that they can always talk to their parent and they will be heard.
We should remember that the introduction to solving difficult situations is the ability to listen and speak properly. Accept different beliefs. Develop empathy in a child. And an attitude that shows respect for oneself and one’s “opponent”.