3D: Social-Emotional Development, Conflicts, and Problem-Solving Skills


Social-Emotional Development, Conflicts, and Problem Solving Skills

Social-emotional Development,
Conflicts, and Problem Solving Skills

In living our belief that caring, committed, power-with, valued relationships are the foundation upon which del Sol exists, teachers naturally focus students’ attention, both spontaneously and with planned thought, on the importance of how we are the same, different, and how we relate to each other. Not only are teachers in tune with the “teaching moment” but also to conscious planning of curriculum for social-emotional learning. As a natural part of every day children have many opportunities to develop their social skills through the following daily opportunities of: talking, listening, cooperating, helping, being compassionate, making suggestions, negotiating, voting, taking turns, sharing space and materials, being the leader or follower, standing up for one’s self/for another, expressing needs and feelings in prosocial ways, etc. del Sol teachers understand the importance of facilitating and promoting these social skills at all times, as part of the daily curriculum. Invariably, children run into conflicts over materials, space, personal property, skills yet unlearned, roles (leader/follower), deferring, expressing feelings and needs, being understood, equity and mutuality. By far, conflicts over materials and space are the vast majority of daily conflicts and occur without big emotion and, therefore, can be addressed with our joint problem solving process, i.e., What are three solutions you can think of? Do any work for the both/all of you (working for win-win solutions)? What other ideas can you think of that might work for both/all of you? . . . So, you’ve decided on xxx. . . If it doesn’t work, let me know and we’ll ask our brains for more ideas that might work. Children become adept at this process due to its frequent occurrence since we set up our environment for co-activity which impels communication, sharing, and problem solving. When conflicts arise with big emotions, the teacher’s role in these difficult situations is not to take over and distract, judge, shame, punish, or enact a solution but to serve as a magnifying glass for those involved via empathic listening, more empathic listenting, and more empathic listening. Once the big emotions have calmed, the sensitive teacher moves on to clarifying and exploring the feelings and needs with the goal of facilitating the construction of each involved person’s understanding of their own and every involved person’s valid needs. This allows the child to evaluate the situation for themselves and construct a moral belief system within the context of prosocial values. Acceptance, respect, and trust from caring adults are essential to the learning and growing process. Experiencing acceptance, respect, and trust from important adults helps children to develop these qualities in themselves. Believing in oneself is the basis for all growth. The last step in many such conflict situations involving big emotions is joint problem solving — a process which all involved are very familiar.

Conflicts between children or their teachers are not seen as problems that teachers themselves must solve, but as opportunities for children to learn the skills necessary to become responsible problem solvers in their own lives. Therefore, children are encouraged to work out conflicts among themselves from a non-power based approach with teachers serving as facilitator, assuming a less directive role as independence grows.

When children share a conflict situation they are having with one teacher to a confidant teacher, the same principles and approach applies. The confidant teacher encourages the child to work out the conflict with the other teacher, providing emotional support with their physical presence and modeling throughout the resolution conversation with the involved teacher. Conflicts are not seen as problems to avoid, but opportunities for greater mutual understanding and respect of both parties’ feelings, needs, and requests. Win-win solutions are evaluated and implemented in an agreed upon sequence until resolution has been achieved as well as personal reconnection.

We model/teach the children to use a variety of techniques depending on the situation. Walking away from behavior that is difficult is one strategy; using “I-messages” in a form of communication called Nonviolent Communication (NVC by Marshall Rosenberg) is another. NVC focuses on expressing and listening with empathy to the facts, feelings, needs, and requests in a situation. Another strategy we also utilize is a win-win Creative Problem Solving method (by Thomas Gordon). Variations are used as the situation calls for it. Children know they can always call upon teachers to serve as facilitators in their problem solving and conflict resolution experiences. Fostering nonviolent communication and peaceful conflict resolution impact the children’s lives in very positive ways.

Parents wanting to read more about effective communication and how to address a conflict in needs between them and their children or between children or within themselves (negative emotions/reactivity), we invite you to read How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Faber and King and as they grow older How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Maslich, The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, Parent Effectiveness Training, 30th Anniversary edition by Thomas Gordon, Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. We invite interested parents to read any or all of the above as they contain the fundamental relationship principles and approaches which we embrace.

Below, we share our values of including Empathy and Reconnection in our social-emotional curriculum in two separate situations. First, a video clip showing how children have been encouraged to be compassionate and helpful to their friends in need in situations relating to falls/trips, scrapes, stubbed toes, and giving help to friends who have not yet mastered independent use of the microwave.

Second, the anecdote below illustrates our relying on not only empathy but also on reconnection as a nurturing approach to conflict and discipline.


Things happen, like one day you cut a hole in your friend’s coat … because you were really young when you did it (two weeks ago) and now you would NEVER do such a thing. And then things happen – like a field trip to the tailor to find out how to fix the hole and how much it will cost. We are excited by the field trip but not happy that our friend was upset by the hole in his coat.

Today we met Amiz, the tailor. We were mostly interested in the cool dressing rooms, but when we coaxed the tailor out from behind his counter, we found out all kinds of interesting things…like why there are the cool dressing rooms, extra shoes for men and women, why there is a platform with mirrors around it and how Amiz makes people’s pants shorter. Then we got down to business and asked him questions.

Q: Could he sew the hole? A: No

Q: What could we do? A: Measure the hole and sew a badge on.

Q: Did he have any badges? A: Yes, but none that we liked.

Q: Where could we buy a badge? A: Online would be our best plan.

Q: Could we iron on the badge? A: Sewing was better.

Q: How much would it cost for Amiz the tailer to do it? A: $5.00-$6.00.

Q: How soon could it be done? A: It depended on how many customers he had.

Q: Would we be a customer? A: Definitely


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