How to Teach Teenagers Conflict Resolution Skills (2022)

two students using conflict resolution skills in classroom with teacher watching

This blog post includes practical strategies for teaching conflict management and conflict resolution skills to students in grades 9–12.

Introduction

Conflict management and conflict resolution skills are for high school students to learn. Young people are at a stage in their lives where they can view the world as a constantly changing system of relationships. If they learn how to handle conflict effectively in a respectful way, and during a negative experience, they can make positive choices and take positive actions today and in the long term.

Why teach conflict resolution skills?

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to learn how to manage conflict and find a peaceful solution to everyday situations. With our global community becoming increasingly interconnected, it’s crucial that we educate and engage citizens who understand the interdependence of our lives. By teaching conflict resolution skills with effective conflict resolution strategies, we can empower students 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. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when incorporating this complex topic into your lesson plans. Considerations for the types of conflict situations to include, the best way to create a social experience for students, background knowledge of students, and teacher experiences are important when lesson planning. Many of these considerations are good educational practices in general, but they become even more important when dealing with conflict resolution lessons for middle school students and high school students.

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

What types of conflict can teachers use as examples in lessons?

When it comes to drama, conflict is key. It’s an inescapable part of human progress but can cause major problems in the classroom. Even in the most supportive and positive environments, conflict with big emotions can occur, disrupting students’ ability to learn. If not properly managed, the main concern is it could even lead to violence. Using conflict situations as examples in conflict resolution activities is important to build context with students.

Classroom Experiences

The best way to create a social experience that is favourable to involvement, schools must be aware of the potential for conflicts to arise within the educational process and include student learning about conflict management as part of the solution. Classroom conflict is a common and everyday occurrence that presents a challenge for many teachers and students. Knowing how to address, manage, and resolve these conflicts with effective conflict resolution techniques 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 can be 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 and 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 have found that even small disputes can 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 can be managed between students with lessons specifically designed for conflict management throughout the school year.

Teacher Experiences

As educators, we often see conflict as indicative of problems like indiscipline, violence, and disrespect. This can be especially true in cases where authority is threatened. However, experienced teachers with exceptional communication skills know that conflict is a common occurrence in any classroom – even the most well-behaved ones. While these situations can 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 can be 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. It is important for individuals to know how to handle such situations effectively.

Conflict management is a skillset that everyone should possess. While conflict can occur 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, students can 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 due to the fact that 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 can create intense emotions, which can lead to arguments with others, disagreements, and general conflict. Therefore, it is beneficial for students at this age to learn some 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 keep in mind when incorporating this complex topic into your curriculum. Many of these considerations are good educational practices, but they take on new importance in the context of conflict management.

Some ways in which this can be done include:

Normalize Conflict

Conflict is a normal and necessary part of life. It can be a source of growth and learning, if we approach it with openness and curiosity. Teachers can 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 to not shy away from it but embrace it. They should also be taught how to resolve conflict quickly and efficiently so that they can move forward with a better understanding of the situation.

Emphasize Multiple Perspectives

In order to learn and grow, it is important for us to be open to hearing different perspectives. Through conversation, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of others’ views and why they hold them. While disagreement is natural, it can also provide an opportunity for learning. By managing conflict effectively, we can avoid escalation, and even violence, to foster healthy dialogue.

Students can listen to others and understand different perspectives. Understanding where the conflict may come from can help defuse the situation. By approaching conflict in this way, students have an opportunity to learn from others and expand their own perspectives.

Teach Dialogue Skills

Dialogue can be a useful tool for learning and discussing complex topics in the classroom. It can 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 can be 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 can create a more open and inclusive classroom climate.

In the process of dialogue, we should aim to listen critically in order to enhance our understanding of the topic at hand. We should encourage each other to think deeply and challenge fixed assumptions. In this way, we can create 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, methods used to teach conflict management focus on the interaction between learners. This allows students to gain a deeper understanding of 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 styles. This allows teachers to encourage and facilitate student decision-making about how they will react in future conflict situations.

Focus on Individuals 

Statistics can be very powerful, but they can also seem remote and impersonal. To help students connect with the material, we want to get beyond the numbers and humanize the topic. By making it personal, we can make it more real for them.

Use Readings to Create Real-World Applications 

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

The learning that takes place by connecting fiction stories to relevant real-world examples of conflict management can be reinforced through the use of 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 neighbour wanted to take Toto away from her.
  2. How do this experience and these feelings relate to having to move 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. It is imperative that time is used in a manner that is conducive to maximizing the group discussion component for the purpose of debriefing the content covered during each session.

Share Real Stories 

Connecting students with real-world examples helps students to contextualize the conflict they experience. One of the ways we can help to contextualize different conflict situations is to present statistics with a human face. When we put a human face on the numbers, suddenly the issues seem more real and relatable. This is why it’s important to get beyond the numbers and connect with people when discussing sensitive topics.

By sharing real stories, it is important that students hear the voices of people whose lives have been affected by conflict and that they move beyond the abstract to the concrete. Stories can create bonds by illustrating shared experiences. 

Examples of Real Stories

A student in a school in the United States might be surprised to hear 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 can also help clarify concepts that may otherwise seem elusive, making the abstract real. 

As educators, we know that stories have the power to engage students and help them understand complex topics. When used correctly, stories can be a helpful tool in teaching students about conflict management. 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

It is important for students to share their stories in order to better understand the realities of conflict. This can help to tap into their empathy and provide a deeper understanding of why these things are happening. 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.

It is through stories that we can really understand and appreciate the individual experiences of those affected by conflict. By empathizing with the characters in these stories, students can begin to see beyond the current situation and better understand why it is happening. This understanding can empower students to take action.

Skills Needed to Facilitate Conflict Management Lessons

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. Teachers can 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 in a professional manner. 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, the processing and discussion of structured experiences is the key to assisting people in drawing from their own thoughts and experiences. It is at this point that your role as Facilitator- rather than Teacher is crucial.

Maintain Your Role

In transitioning into a facilitator role from a teacher role, it is important to create specific norms around the conflict management lessons. These norms may be similar, and linked, with your classroom norms, but it is important to start the first lesson on conflict management by creating a norms charter for the specific lessons about conflict management. 

Norms for Conflict Management Lessons

The tone for the lesson that the facilitator establishes should encourage students to feel safe and confident in sharing their thoughts, ideas, and experiences. An environment that supports and encourages natural dialogue between students is fundamental in building a sense of trust between facilitator, student, and group. 

Some special considerations for accomplishing a confidential atmosphere with norms are:

Confidentiality

Quite often this is presented by students in a conflict management lesson as being a major issue that requires thorough discussion. It is important for the facilitator to reinforce that what is said in the group should remain in the group unless there are safety issues and the facilitator is required to 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 in different ways. It is imperative to recognize this and to 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 useful 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 in how to manage conflict in their lives. 

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

Ground Rules

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

Examples of ground rules for conflict management lessons include:

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

Outcomes

It is imperative to discuss the outcomes of the lessons to provide the participants with a sense of what they can expect. In facilitating the group, it is essential to remember to never expect participants to do anything that the facilitator would not do. 

Summary

Conflict management and conflict resolution skills are tools that allow young people to experience and achieve more of life’s goals without experiencing the negative consequences conflict can bring. Typically, lack of communication skills, poor self-esteem, peer pressure, jealousy, and unclear expectations are the top reasons why one person feels like a victim or another person feels like an aggressor. These issues can arise during any interaction between individuals or groups of people. There are many factors that can cause conflict.

Students can practice these skills every day, and they will be better equipped to manage conflicts they face in their lives.

Respectful conflict resolution can happen 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.

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.

TACT (TEENS AND CONFLICT TOGETHER)

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How to Successfully Teach Teens Conflict Resolution Skills

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Children learn how to solve problems the same way they learn how to read, write, and add. Like reading, writing, and adding, there are three specific components to solving problems. These are teachable skills children can learn at any age

Published by suzannemarie

Educator and published author of conflict management and children's books. Living life to its fullest. I believe in courageously honouring my truth and living my legacy. Lover of meaningful conversations, coffee, food, art, and building connections. I love writing about my fascination with culture, food, adventure, self-love, and living a healthy and fulfilled life!

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