Professional Development

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Mediating Afterschool Program Disagreements

I remember standing between two school-age boys and blocking them from brutalizing each over a kickball game.

The disagreement stemmed from a bad call on a play. I ran over once I saw one of the boys screaming and charging over to the other student. At that moment, I realized situations could escalate in a matter of minutes.

Disagreements are the leading cause of conflict in the afterschool program setting. Differences occur between kids, staff and other support staff. Part of what makes disagreements so tricky: They can stem from any cause or issue.

Regardless of the source of the disagreement, finding the solution is contingent upon clear communication.

Check out these tips for resolving afterschool program conflict.

1. Evaluate the situation.
First, determine what happened by having all parties that are involved communicate their side of the story. This allows for the mediator to get to the root of the problem by listening and gaining an objective understanding of what took place. Even in the case where you believe you saw what happened, it is critical to listen to both sides. Additional information can help you better assess exactly what is going on. For example, you may observe one child hitting another. Upon listening to both sides, however, you may learn that the child who was the aggressor did so due to daily taunting from the other child (which you did not see).

2. Discover each party's intentions and goals.
Decide what each student desires as an outcome. What resolution would best serve him or her? It's important to remind children of the expected standard of behavior that you hold for each of them and even more important that they can communicate the importance of these goals as you seek a resolution.

3. Brainstorm solutions.
If either party does not agree on one solution, ask them to think of ways to reach the desired goal. The more ideas, the more possibilities for resolution. The children will come to realize that while they have options to resolve the conflict, continuing the disagreement is not one of them.

4. Select a course of action.
Each of the brainstormed responses has possible consequences if put in motion. Discuss the pros and cons of each idea. The primary objective in this step is to determine what effect(s) the chosen plan of action will have on the other person in the conflict.

5. Carry out the plan.
Initiate the plan that will achieve the aspired primary goal that will result in minimal stress or additional conflict in the relationship. This process of problem-solving may appear to be lengthy and tedious. However, with practice, this process will become habitual.

Communication is significant for conflict resolution and will go a long way toward promoting a cohesive and positive afterschool program atmosphere.

Written by Tiana Brown, Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers.

The original version of this article originally appeared on Connecticut After School Network and has been republished and edited with permission.