“What do I do about my siblings fighting constantly?” I heard one Mom lamenting at a recent meeting. “Should I let them handle it? Should I intervene? I want to help them learn conflict management skills but I’m not sure how to respond.” Certainly, this is a common issue in family life. The reality is — fights happen. So then, how can we prepare ourselves and our children for them so that we can ensure no harm is done and our relationships strengthen and grow because of the way we respond to conflict?
This summer, I learned about a preschool that uses a Peace Rose to help build children’s skills. The application for families is easy to see. It can work for any age, preschool and up, between children or even between a parent and a child. Here’s how a Peace Rose can be used to help your children learn and practice valuable conflict management skills.
First, make a tissue paper rose. This can be an excellent rainy day project. Instructions on how to make one follow this article. (You can buy a silk rose too but there will be greater investment and concern for a rose that has been carefully constructed by your children.)
Second, make or find an unbreakable (yes, this is important!) vase. One can be constructed out of a decorated frozen concentrate juice can or empty milk carton. Or if you have a plastic vase that’s sturdy, that could do the job.
Third, play act the process with your kids. Here’s how it might go. A parent might say:
We are fighting over a toy and I feel upset about it. I don’t want to fight.
That parent picks up the Family Peace Rose. She might say:
When I hand it to sister Addison, what I am communicating to her is “Let’s work this out together.”
Your children would then follow each of the following steps. Be sure and post the printable version of the steps (at the end of the article) so that they can follow along with you and after practice, use it as a guide to do on their own. Or if you have young children, play act and practice several times so that they get in the habit of the routine.
Step One. Breathe in the sweet smell.
Ask both children to “breathe” in the beautiful sweet scent of the rose. Make sure you are in a comfortable, private location to talk.
Step Two. Take turns communicating feelings and the problem.
Use this simple I-messages structure to ensure that your children are communicating with one another in an assertive, not aggressive way. This helps the individual take responsibility for their own role and their feelings while avoiding blaming language like “you did…” (which closes down the mind and ears of the other).
Here’s how it might sound as you play act it out:
I feel frustrated and angry when you take my toy because I feel like you don’t care that I was playing with it. How do you feel?
I feel frustrated when you have the toy I want to play with.
Step Three. Generate ideas. Now it’s time to share ideas. How can you work it out? Can you take turns? Can you play together? Should you set a timer for the toy? Do you want to both play with something else and put that toy away?
Step Four. Try it out. If the children find an idea they can both agree to try, then let them go and try it. If they try it out and it doesn’t work, then get the rose out again and generate another idea that might work for both.
Step Five. Reflect. If they have resumed playing and seemed to have resolved the issue, to deepen the learning a parent can ask when you are cleaning up, “How did it work out?” “Was the idea successful?” “Would you want to try the Family Peace Rose again?” “What would you do differently next time?” This step helps children realize that they have gone through a problem-solving process. It helps them think through how they have done it and how they could use it in the future. If they have learned a new skill or process through the experience, the reflection will help them internalize and remember it for future instances.
Leave the Family Peace Rose in its vase in a playroom or main family room so that it can be easily accessed at any time by your children. Adopt this simple practice in your home and see how it helps family members better communicate with one another and work through problems. You might find your children working through their conflicts on their own while practicing critical skills that can last a lifetime!
Here are simple instructions from Very Well Family on How to Make a Tissue Paper Flower.
Special thanks to Rachel Choquette Kemper and the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center for this great idea!