Saturday, December 15, 2007

To Have Peace, Teach Peace

In the minute-by-minute clash of news from around the world, peace seems an elusive goal.

Peace, though, is not dependent on rest of the world's cooperation. Peace begins with the individual and the individual's decision to lead a peaceful life.

Peace must be chosen, and we need to teach others to choose peace, joy and happiness. We need to show others how to recognize the opportunities for decision-making that leads to a peaceful life.

The choice to lead a peaceful life requires a honing of interpersonal skills for dealing with conflict and friction that will arise with family and friends. We may choose peace, but we need to be aware of a maxim: where there are people, there are problems.

A communication tool for problem solving that is being used by families and classrooms throughout the world is the peace table.

A peace table may be an actual child-sized table, a couple of chairs, a corner of a room or a defined space where children can go to resolve a dispute with each other. The space might hold a decoration of a peace symbol, such as an olive branch, dove, flowers or similar meaningful object. A small bell's ring signals to family and classmates that a conflict has been resolved.

Children in a quarrel can choose to go to the peace table, or a parent, teacher, sibling or classmate might suggest to the children to resolve their issues at the peace table. After a few successes working through their problems, children probably won't need to be prompted to use the peace table.

The peace table procedure follows. The child who feels wronged places one hand on the table, the other hand on her heart to indicate that the words being spoken are from the heart. The child looks at the other child, speaks that child's name, explains how she feels about what has occurred and what solution she would like to see happen.

The other child has a turn, placing one hand on the table and the other hand on his heart. The dialogue continues, without outside interference, until an agreement is reached. If the children cannot resolve their disagreement, they may invite a mediator--parent, teacher, older sibling or especially trained classmate.

If the situation involves the entire family or classroom, the participants may ask for a meeting of the whole, where everyone listens to both sides of the disagreement and then is asked to speak, in turn, from the heart.

When agreement is reached, the bell is rung to signal to the family or class that an accord has been reached.

With the peace table, children learn that their point of view is important, that they will be listened to and that they will be treated with respect and fairness. In their negotiations at the peace table, children learn that arguments need to be settled with truth and good faith in order to ensure a harmonious home and a cooperative climate in their classroom.

Peace is an individual choice. In the words of the hymn: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Create a peace table in your work with children. To have peace, teach peace.

Next week: For Unto Us a Child Is Born

Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.

She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at maren@shininglightreading.com.

Complete Collection of the Shining Light Reading Series Now Available on DVD
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