Parents and quarrels at school (and at home)

How a school can build educational continuity between the approach to quarrels lived at school and family routines.

By Annalisa Schirato and Michele Vezzoli

The experience developed at Sassolino – Montessori kindergarten run by Foundation INTRO, partner of the project “Arguing at school” – makes it possible to highlight some precautions that should be taken when a school proposes to apply a systematic educational approach to conflicts (be it the Litigare Bene method, the Peer mediation, the Friendship Cards or other chosen approach).

Practising an educational method of conflict management in school also makes this topic central to family communication.
Teaming up among educational figures (family and professional) allows the child to feel protected within a network of shared values and good practices.

When teachers and parents go in contrasting directions, the child or the teen, while knowing how to contextualise the different rules proposed in different environments, struggles to access more subtle levels of evolution, because they are confused by discordant adult models.

Our experience of applying an educational approach to quarrels at school (specifically the Litigare Bene method, one of the three analysed by the project “Arguing at school”) highlighted the usefulness of informing parents about the approach even before the beginning of school attendance.
It is appropriate that already during the Open Days created to present the school teachers explain in a simple and clear way the educational approach followed on the quarrels, so as to open the possibility to subsequent personal deepening.

It is essential to ensure that parents can observe – perhaps through audiovisual material or, if possible, in person – the dynamics that take place at school in case of conflict, permitting them also to perceive the quality of the teacher’s intervention.

A subsequent talk with the teachers will offer all the highlights and clarifications that the previous observation facilitates: attention to emotional education, the role of the teacher who becomes a facilitator of the dialogue, the autonomy maturing in children, the welcoming/non-judgmental attitude of the teacher with respect to emotions, but also the firmness of the intervention when it is necessary to remember the rules.
Afterwards, during the attendance at school, the occasions of quarrel between children will be very common, and therefore also the possibility to resume with parents the topic, and to satisfy their needs for deepening thanks to personal talks and assemblies.

To facilitate a significant change it is appropriate also to build a real training setting, led by an expert who accompanies the participants in a delicate evolutionary process.
The training asks the adult-educator to examine first of all the motivations of his usual attitude towards the conflict, in order to deconstruct it and integrate new approaches.

Through actions aimed at the recognition and emergence of the education received and the cultural system of belonging, it is possible to observe the keys that affect one’s reading of conflict situations.

By tracing the autobiographical matrix of his behaviour, the parent can activate a process of personal change that will accompany him/her to mature new educational and relational skills.
Parents will then be provided with information related to the needs of children and teens, the functioning of their thinking and their emotional world.
To follow, will be exposed and deepened the methodological steps required to the adult to facilitate the conflicts between children and teens.

Frequently, in these years of activity with children and families, we have seen spread the educational approach to quarrels practised at school within the home, even in daily routine.
In the same way, approaching this issue for their children can motivate parents to address the focus of their own conflicting skills, through more personal paths.

In short: helping children and teens to address the quarrels between them makes grow… even adults!