Kongsvinger is a small town in Eastern Norway, close to Sweden, with a small dedicated group working in kindergarten and elementary schools to convey conflict and social skills to children from 1 year old to 12. Recently, they presented their fabulous experience for a very grateful audience of children, teachers and parents.
On his blog, Johan Galtung* describe some situation to better portray and understand his work: Enters a teddy-bear, a key ‘person’ in the conflict scene. Child 1 grabs the bear beats Child 2 shouting, “He is mine!” The teacher reports: “Of course I could scold, saying beating is not allowed. But that is not good enough.” So I said, “He is neither his nor yours, but the kindergarten’s. You wanted to hug him? OK, but no beating. You could have asked”. Next time that would be the chosen means for the “bear in my arms” goal. Another child had left some cute stuffed animals on the bathroom counter. Then the bell rang. They all left, except that child, standing by the door, crying deeply and loudly. The teacher reports: “Of course I could have said that ‘big children like you don’t cry’ but that wouldn’t have been good enough”. So I simply asked, “Tell me, what is the matter?” “The animals are lonely, nobody cares for them!” was the reply.
Small stories for most people; big for the children. Again and again teachers try to train them. Children do something negative, unacceptable, irritating? Ask them or yourself “why, what do you want, what is your goal?” And then you may question the goal, modify it possibly. And suggest better means. To hug the bear is a totally acceptable goal, but asking for it is a far better means than beating. To care for the lonely animals is not only acceptable but beautiful, but words are a better means of communicating than tears. Of course then comes the question: which words?
Elisabeth, a teacher from this kindergarten, made a study of child conflicts and found that they were essentially of six types:
* A child wants to have a toy alone;
* A child takes a toy from others;
* A child does not wait for his/her turn, sneaking in the line;
* A child wants to decide alone what and how they all shall play;
* Disagreement about what and how they shall play.
* A child is excluded from playing.
These are conflicts: at least two clashing goals are involved, beyond the acceptability of goals and adequacy of means. what kind of solutions can be propose here: for example, an easy one: putting the teddy-bear with a K label, for Kindergarten (or B for Barnehage as we say here in Norway), hanging around the neck in the center, singing together for him; he is ours, we are his. Letting the teddy-bear rotate, each child waiting for his/her turn.
I remember not so long ago, Alfie my daughter came back from her kindergarden with a teddy bear that was actually rotating from one child to the other and then he would come back a little different, with stories, with clothers, with gifts. They would all be so happy to see him again day after day, week after week.
Togetherness around the toy, sharing, rotating. Skills to learn.
Another interesting story from the blog: A mom gives her girl a beauty-kit with two mirrors tied together; she shows it off but one day breaks it, separating the two mirrors. The teacher asks, “But why?” She answers proudly: “Sharing. One mirror for mom, one for me”.
Bullying is a major issue here in Norway, though we are said to be a very peaceful country, and it is of course everywhere in the world. The aim, purpose, goal of any parent, any pedagog, any human being would be that early enough children learn about conflicts, what they are about, about the clashing goals, and very early they should be helped to design the best ways out. The aim is to know how to handle bullying positively, learning from it, making the bully devise better means-goal relations, making the bullee understand, to help him. To construct.
Adults still need time about all this peace “education”: their preoccupation seems to be about who is right, who should be punished, who should come out on top, who wins, who loses.
One day on earth, some global bullies invented a new play: the nuclear game! One child had the monopoly for some time, refusing to give it up to that big kindergarten called the UN. Then another children came, and asked to have it and more and more came as well. Maybe geopolitical kids could pick up better toys than missiles, rocket shields, speculation? How about the conflict resolution game?
This summer, (and next one) I am in charge of organising Barnas Fredsverden annual Youth Seminar for Peace I have planned to put up a parallel programme for 3 test-kindergarden in the region (moss -våler -rygge) helping them to acquire the difficult notions of Peace, best social skills and master conflicts even as young as 3, 4, 5 years while playing and having fun!
I feel this is going to be a very interesting moment in my life…
Sustainable solutions for a better a peaceful world, and as Johan Galtung proposes why not install a “Peace hygiene” programme!
I will keep you updated, soon.
article inspired by Johan Galtung (I need to meet this man!)
For more on these methods, read: SABONA: Searching for the Good Solutions-Learning Solving Conflicts, TRANSCEND University Press, 2011.