There is no question that children with better social skills not only experience the rewards of positive relationships but they tend to do better at school, have a better self-image, and in general are much more resilient as they face the many challenges of childhood and life.
While childhood is a time of innocence, we are all aware that it can also have its tough moments, with inevitable conflicts arising between friends and peers in school and in the wider community. As parents and teachers, we want to be there; to make things better and easier for our children. Too often, however we do not give children the credit for their capacity to solve problems themselves and as adults we frequently jump in to help them before they really need help. Children as young as five are capable of looking at different sides of an issue and solving interpersonal problems and so it is essential we do allow children the opportunities to find their own solutions. Rather than solving all their problems for them, we need to help children develop the skills, confidence and resilience to work out what to do in most tricky situations.
Through our PHSE curriculum and assembly programme, we try to work in sensitive, supportive ways that promote peaceful problem solving among children. We are actively teaching all children social problem-solving skills where we help them to; think before they act; find, evaluate and consider alternative solutions; evaluate the impact of their choices. In this way, children learn they have choices in solving social problems and that some choices are better than others. They also learn that there will usually be more than one option and that they can try something else or choose to do something differently.
As adults, when we do decide to intervene, we take children through the Peaceful Problem Solving Steps. These are outlined in the poster that you can download at the bottom of this post and have recently been displayed around the school and at key points in the playgrounds. This Ready, Steady, Go, Replay model is a really simple and effective tool for peaceful problem solving that can be used by teachers, learning assistants, parents and children. With practice over time, this solution-finding process becomes automatic as people work together to change unproductive behaviour patterns. These valuable skills learnt in childhood will help our children now but also later in life when they will have to work together with others to forge creative solutions and make critical social connections.
Ready, Steady, Go, Replay.
You might want to try this at home too!
- Niki Meehan, Head of Primary