How to Teach Teenagers Conflict Resolution Skills

How to Teach Teenagers Conflict Resolution Skills by Suzanne Marie- 3 teenage girls standing making peace signs into sunset

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Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Teaching teens conflict resolution skills is helpful in better equipping and empowering them to succeed.

This blog post highlights engaging conflict resolution activities and practical strategies to help arm students with the necessary skills required to manage conflicts peacefully.

Background

For the past two decades, I have been passionate about teaching teens communication and conflict management skills.

Conflict resolution activities are designed to give individuals the tools to maintain healthy and productive relationships. From high school to post-secondary students and professionals, I have extensive experience creating lesson plans and curricula that equip people with the necessary skills for successful conversations when conflicts arise.

In addition, I spent fourteen years as a chartered mediator, which allowed me to help many individuals resolve their differences.

Teens Need Conflict Resolution Skills

Teens are at a stage where they view the world as a constantly changing system of relationships.

Conflict management and conflict resolution skills are necessary for young people to learn about healthy relationships.

Learning how to handle conflict respectfully and during a negative experience helps teens positive choices and take positive actions today and in the long term.

Why teach conflict resolution skills?

In today’s world, learning how to manage conflict and find a peaceful solution to everyday situations is more important than ever.

With our global community becoming increasingly interconnected, we must educate and engage young people who understand the interdependence of our lives.

By teaching conflict resolution skills with effective conflict resolution strategies, we empower teens with the knowledge and tools they need to make a difference in the world.

Considerations for Teaching Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution Skills

When it comes to conflict management, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Here are four tips to consider when teaching teens conflict resolution skills.

  • The types of conflict situations teens experience.
  • The best way to create a social experience for students.
  • Background knowledge of students.
  • Teacher experiences with conflict management.

Many of these considerations are good educational practices in general, but they become even more critical when dealing with conflict resolution lessons for middle school students and high school students.

These considerations help ensure students’ ability to effectively manage everyday conflicts by engaging problem solving, reflective listening, social skills, and emotional development.

Conflict Resolution Skills Examples

When it comes to drama, conflict is key. It’s an inescapable part of human progress and causes major problems in the classroom.

Even in the most supportive and positive environments, conflict with big emotions occurs. This disrupts students’ ability to learn.

If not properly managed, the main concern is about conflict leading to violence.

Using various conflict situations as examples in conflict resolution activities is important to build context with students.

Conflict Resolution Skills in Classrooms

The best way to create a social experience favorable to involvement, schools must be aware of the potential for conflicts to arise within the educational process. Therefore, it’s important to include student learning about conflict management as part of the solution.

Classroom conflict is a common everyday occurrence that challenges many teachers and students.

Knowing how to address, manage, and resolve these conflicts with effective conflict resolution skills is essential for maintaining a healthy learning environment.

Student Experiences

When it comes to students, even the tiniest of interpersonal conflicts can have big consequences.

That’s why it’s important to handle disputes quickly and effectively and with effective ways to reach the best solution for all who are involved.

A conflict situation between students is caused by a lot of things, including misunderstandings, fights, bullying, discrimination, use of spaces and assets, dating, sexual harassment, travel, and parties.

But no matter what the cause, students experience conflict individually. Dealing with them in a calm and constructive way for positive outcomes is key to maintaining a safe and positive learning environment for everyone.

Despite popular belief, violence does not always arise from large-scale conflict. Researchers found even small disputes lead to violence. Therefore, it is important to handle conflicts quickly and effectively.

Difficult situations between students with strong feelings, name calling, and personal attacks are best managed between students.

Lessons designed for conflict resolution skills throughout the school year help students learn important life skills. In addition, they learn conflict is normal and strategies for different types of conflict.

Teacher Experiences

As educators, we often see conflict as indicative of problems like indiscipline, violence, and disrespect.

This is especially true in cases where authority is threatened. However, experienced teachers with exceptional communication skills know conflict is a common occurrence in any classroom – even the most well-behaved ones.

While these situations have negative effects on student motivation and learning, teachers play an important role to help students to view them as opportunities for growth.

With the right approach and engaging students in conflict resolution activities, conflicts with strong emotions are resolved peacefully and without compromising the teacher-student relationship.

What is Conflict Management?

Conflict management is the ability to identify and successfully resolve disagreements with others. 

  • Individuals need to know how to handle such situations effectively.
  • Conflict management is a skill set everyone should possess.

While conflict occurs at any time, it’s especially important to know how to manage it during key periods of life, such as in the classroom or workplace.

By learning effective conflict management techniques, teens set themselves up for success in all areas of life.

Why are conflict resolution skills important for middle and high school students?

As students progress through middle school and high school, they become more and more susceptible to conflict.

This is because they are at an age where they are navigating life, dealing with family stress, meeting academic expectations, and interacting with different peer groups.

All of these things create intense emotions, which lead to arguments with others, disagreements, and general conflict.

Therefore, it is beneficial for students at this age to learn conflict management strategies.

These will help them communicate more effectively and get along better with their peers.

Include Conflict Management in Classroom Management Plans

As students move from middle to high school, they typically become more adept at managing conflict.

However, there are still some high school students who could benefit from learning more about how to effectively deal with conflict.

Teachers should be encouraged to introduce and foster conflict management strategies in their lessons with all high school students. 

There are many different approaches to conflict management, but there are a few key considerations to remember when incorporating this complex topic into your curriculum.

Many of these considerations are good educational practices, but they take on new importance in conflict management.

Normalize Conflict

Conflict is a normal and necessary part of life. When approached with openness and curiosity, it is a source of growth and learning.

Teachers help their students to see conflict as an opportunity by teaching them how to manage it effectively.

This means valuing the opinions of others and being willing to explore different perspectives. It doesn’t mean agreeing with everything someone says, but it does provide a chance to understand where the conflict may be coming from.

This type of approach allows students to learn from others and develop their own skills in managing conflict.

Learning how to navigate conflict is an essential life skill, so it’s important to encourage students not to shy away from it but embrace it.

They should also be taught how to resolve conflict quickly and efficiently to move forward with a better understanding of the situation.

Emphasize Multiple Perspectives

Learning and growing are important to be open to hearing different perspectives.

We gain a deeper understanding of others’ views and why they hold them through conversation.

While disagreement is natural, it also provides an opportunity for learning.

  • By managing conflict effectively, we avoid escalation, and even violence, to foster healthy dialogue.
  • Students listen to others and understand different perspectives. 
  • Understanding the source of conflict helps diffuse the situation.

By approaching conflict in this way, teens learn from others and expand their own perspectives.

Conflict Resolution Teaches Dialogue Skills

Dialogue is a useful tool for learning and discussing complex topics in the classroom.

Conflict resolution skills help promote an open mind and active listening skills. While debate typically concludes with a winner and involves trying to find flaws in the other person’s arguments.

With dialogue, there is no winner or loser, just an exchange of ideas.

Debate is a helpful way to learn more about a topic and to develop critical thinking skills. 

In dialogue, instead of focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong outcome, it focuses on finding common ground. This creates a more open and inclusive classroom climate.

In the dialogue process, we aim to listen critically to enhance our understanding of the topic. We encourage each other to think deeply and challenge fixed assumptions.

Using conflict resolution skills and opportunities for dialogue in the classroom creates an educational environment that is academically rigorous, personalized, relevant, and engaging for all students.

Encourage Critical Thinking

In a rapidly changing world, it is more important than ever for students to develop critical thinking skills.

They need to be given opportunities to really engage with lessons, solve problems and interact with their peers.

One way of doing this is through interactive lessons, which encourage creativity.

For example, teaching conflict resolution skills focuses on the interaction between learners. This allows students to understand the subject matter and build vital skills for the future.

Critical thinking is just one of the skills that allow students to: 

  • use inductive and deductive reasoning 
  • analyze how parts of a whole interact to produce overall outcomes 
  • effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims, and beliefs 
  • analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
  • synthesize and make connections between information and arguments 
  • interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best information
  • reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

Interactive strategies in lessons provide students with opportunities to explore and identify their own individual conflict resolution skills and styles.

This allows teachers to encourage and facilitate student decision-making about how students will react in future conflict situations.

Focus on Individuals 

Statistics are very powerful but also seem remote and impersonal.

To help students connect with the material, get beyond the numbers, and humanize the topic. By making it personal, it’s more relevant and real.

Use Readings to Create Real-World Applications 

In previous English classes, I have used books like, ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as a platform to explore conflict management with high school students. 

The learning connects fiction stories to relevant real-world examples of conflict management. Reinforce learning through structured activities, role-plays, self-awareness evaluations, and group discussions. 

For example, in a group discussion about ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ topics for discussion may include:

  1. Name and describe how Dorothy felt when the neighbor wanted to take Toto away.
  2. How do this experience and these feelings relate to moving to a new home? 
  3. What are effective strategies Dorothy could have used to manage her emotions? 
  4. What conflict management style does Dorothy use in this situation?

It is important for the benefit of students that preparation and organization for each activity are done in advance of each chapter to allow for a dynamic and efficient progression of each chapter.

Time must be used in a manner conducive to maximizing the group discussion component to debrief the content covered during each session.

Share Real Stories 

Connecting students with real-world examples helps students to contextualize the conflict they experience. 

One way to contextualize conflict situations is to present statistics with a human face.

When students suddenly put a human face on the numbers, the issues seem more real and relatable. This is why it’s essential to get beyond the numbers and connect with people when discussing sensitive topics.

By sharing real stories, students must hear the voices of people whose lives have been affected by conflict. This helps them move beyond the abstract to the concrete.

Stories create bonds by illustrating shared experiences. 

Examples of Real Stories

A student in a school in the United States might be surprised to hear about the hobbies and interests of a young person in a country on another continent.

Students are often surprised because their interests are so similar. Suddenly, the world becomes smaller. That other person seems less foreign, less remote.

Stories also help clarify concepts that may otherwise seem elusive, making the abstract real. 

Stories have the power to engage students and help them understand complex topics. When used correctly, stories are helpful tools for students learning conflict resolution skills.

By sharing stories of individuals who have faced and overcome conflict, we can show students that it is possible to make a difference. These positive examples can empower students to take action in their own lives.

Importance of Real Stories

Students need to share their stories to understand the realities of conflict better. This helps them tap into empathy and provide a deeper understanding of why conflict occurs.

While sharing stories alone will not solve a major conflict, it is enough to engage students and give them a sense of empowerment, knowing that they can take action to make a difference.

Through stories, we understand and appreciate the individual experiences of those affected by conflict. By empathizing with the characters in these stories, students see beyond the current situation and better understand why it is happening.

This understanding empowers students to take action.

Skills Needed to Teach Conflict Resolution Skills

The following skills are critical to teaching conflict resolution skills.

Set the Tone

Facilitators are recommended to encourage students to be responsible for their own learning and self-development by using techniques to aid in accomplishing a safe, structured, and facilitated environment that promotes openness.

A simple technique is to validate the student’s comments by recording direct quotes on a whiteboard.

Integrate technology into a conflict management lesson and create small group discussions where students input their responses in Padlet or another tool to share their discoveries through discussions. 

Be Flexible

Learning is enhanced through appropriate coaching, encouraging structured self-analysis, providing alternative viewpoints, facilitating experiential learning, and conducting the lesson professionally.

Flexibility within conflict management lessons allows for adaptations to be made according to the cultural needs of the student group. 

Create Experiential Learning Experiences

In experiential learning, processing and discussing structured experiences are the key to assisting people in drawing from their own thoughts and experiences.

Maintain Your Role

In transitioning into a facilitator role from a teacher role, creating specific norms around conflict resolution skills lessons is essential.

These norms may be similar and linked with your classroom norms, but it is important to start the first lesson by creating a norms charter for the specific lessons about conflict management. 

Norms for Conflict Resolution Skills Lessons

The tone of the lesson establishes students to feel safe and confident in sharing their thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

An environment supporting and encouraging natural dialogue between students is fundamental in building trust during conflict resolution skills lessons.

Norms for accomplishing a supportive atmosphere:

Confidentiality

Quite often, this is presented by students in a conflict resolution skills lesson as a major issue requiring thorough discussion.

The facilitator must reinforce that what is said in the group should remain in the group unless there are safety issues.

The facilitator must disclose information shared in the group for safety reasons.

Respect

A useful technique is to transfer exactly what the students say onto the whiteboard or have them enter their responses in Padlet.

Perceptions vary from person to person, and it is important that what the student says is transferred so that they know they are being respected and that it is ‘ok’ to share their thoughts and ideas, and that the facilitator acknowledges their thoughts and ideas without judgment for how the participant may communicate their thoughts and ideas.

Ultimately, it is the speaker’s thoughts and ideas, and it should feel safe for the student to want to share.

Support

It takes an inordinate amount of courage and risk for students to want to share their experiences about conflict situations and conflict management in their lives. This courage needs to be supported and nurtured with sincerity.

No one should be put down or made fun of in a group for their thoughts and ideas. Each student in the group is individual and unique, including the facilitator, and this fact should be acknowledged, recognized, and accepted.

Open-mindedness

Each student in the group, including the facilitator, manages the conflict in their lives differently. It is imperative to recognize and discuss this in the group to reinforce the concept that we are all individual and unique, and there are no right and no wrong ways of managing conflict, just perceptions.

Guidance

It is helpful to spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of each lesson to provide direction. At the beginning of the lesson, it is important to link past learning and past experiences with what will be covered in the group ‘today.’

Part of accomplishing acceptance and ‘buy-in’ for the material covered is letting the participants know that what they are learning is not entirely new information. The lesson is packaged in a manner that offers a process for managing conflict in their lives. 

At the end of each lesson, it is important to summarize the concepts and ideas covered for assessment. This offers reinforced learning to the participants, encouraging them to use the materials they have learned outside classes.

Ground Rules

The group needs to have an identity that reflects the group’s values and expectations for how the group will be facilitated. It is important to allow the participants to share their ideas on what the ground rules will include.

Examples of ground rules for conflict resolution skills lessons include:

  • Everyone speaks free of interruption
  • Everyone has an opportunity to be heard
  • Everyone communicates with respect and kindness

Outcomes

Discussing the outcomes of the lessons is imperative to give the participants a sense of what to expect. In facilitating the group, it is essential to remember never to expect participants to do anything that the facilitator would not do. 

Summary

Conflict management and conflict resolution skills allow young people to experience and achieve more of life’s goals without experiencing the negative consequences of conflict.

Lack of communication skills, poor self-esteem, peer pressure, jealousy, and unclear expectations are the top reasons one person feels like a victim or another person feels like an aggressor.

These issues arise during any interaction between individuals or groups of people. Many factors cause conflict.

Students practice conflict resolution skills daily and will be better equipped to manage their conflicts with effective strategies from lessons.

Respectful conflict resolution happens when it is modeled by educators and administrators, guided by adults who understand the importance of helping students cultivate these skills.

Conflict resolution and long-term peacebuilding can be taught effectively to students across the entire curriculum.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Suzanne

Related Topics

References

TACT (Teens and Conflict Together): A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Youth to Engage in Creative Problem Solving: Petryshyn, MA., Chartered Mediator, Suzanne: 9781451516593: Books – Amazon.ca. (2022). Amazon.ca.


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