Children and teens have been bullied by their school peers for centuries. However, these days peer harassment has reached a new level of meanness that is alarming and potentially dangerous. The impact of bullying on both the instigator and victim can be devastating for young children and teens well into their adult years. The key to avoiding this is to teach children how to respectfully communicate their thoughts and identify their emotions early on.
At Soaring Wings, our Education for Peace curriculum focuses on developing the emotional and mental health of young minds and hearts from the moment they start school with us. By the time our students are ready to graduate they have formed a clear and effective way to express their thoughts and emotions with their teachers, family members, and friends.
Montessori’s Education for Peace Curriculum
Peaceful living skills are taught throughout the curriculum from learning to greet each other in the morning, to serving a snack gracefully to celebrating the cultures of the world our students learn etiquette and respect. Our conflict resolution process is used daily in all classes.
- Toddlers (1 ½ to 3 years): As your toddler’s concept of self expands to include the awareness of others it is vital that parents and teachers model and reinforce kindness towards others, and that your child knows how to recognize and healthily express their emotions.
- Early Childhood (3 to 5 years): At this age social skills have begun to develop along with the use of the class peace object. When a problem arises one child holds the object, which may be a feather, stone or stick, and speaks from her heart. The other child must listen until the object is passed to him. The object is passed back and forth until a solution is reached. At first teachers supply phrasing such as, “I didn’t mean to make you sad” or “May I use the crayon when you are done?” By about the age of five children are independent in their use of the peace object.
- The Elementary classroom (5 to 10 years): All Montessori’s Elementary classrooms feature a peace corner which is a lovely place to read or write or think. These students use the class peace object to share their thoughts and feelings every day – a process called “emotional literacy”. They are able to discuss problems with others and often resolve issues without having to hold a concrete peace object, but just by listening to and acknowledging each others’ feelings and taking turns expressing their emotions.
Preparing Young Children to Communicate Effectively as Teens & Adults
By the time our graduates transition to their next school they are independent in recognizing and working through problems. Our “education for peace” curriculum has much to do with this, but there are other important techniques to consider:
- Brain research indicates that children need lots of real world face to face experiences in order to learn empathy. They need to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.
- Be wary of using 2-dimensional impersonal experiences to educate children such as placing them in front of too many screens – baby toys with screens, tv screens, computer screens, video games, movies and eventually email, texting and online social networking – inhibits the brain’s ability to develop social skills. Children are watching movies in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in cars and on airplanes instead of interacting with family and friends. Looking at screens detracts from developing basic understanding of the physical world, as well as motor and social development.
Somehow we’ve always known that playing outside, avoiding electronic toys and developing personal relationships are important parts of child raising. Remember your mom saying, “Go ride your bike”, “Turn off that tv” and “Go play with your brother”? Now we know why!
Duna Strachan, AMS
Soaring Wings International Montessori School
Park City, Utah USA