MMS teaches children to “talk it out”

MMS is introducing a new program this year to help children learn to how resolve interpersonal conflicts on their own as a way of developing self-awareness and resilience.

At MMS, our attention to the social and emotional development of children is a central part of our Montessori mission. Starting in Primary, with lessons in “grace and courtesy,” children learn how to express their feelings in an appropriate way. They practice courtesy. They talk through their feelings with a teacher, learning to look inward as well as thinking about the needs of others.

In Elementary, social interactions become much more complex as children develop ideas around “fairness,” become aware of hierarchies, and look to each other for approval. At MMS, we talk about teaching the “four 4’s”: recognition, reflection, resilience, and respect. By helping children learn to recognize how their actions affect others, and reflect on how to solve problems, they become resilient and respectful members of the community. By allowing children time to think about themselves and why they feel the way they do, we guide them to see and then build self-awareness.

“Talk It Out” is a curriculum of five lessons that provides children with simple, specific, and nonjudgmental language for working through conflicts. The framework is straightforward:

1. Stop. Cool off.

2. Talk and listen to each other.

3. Find out what you both need.

4. Brainstorm solutions.

5. Choose the idea you both like.

6. Make a plan. Go for it!

The lessons focus on learning to articulate the reasons for the conflict and the consequences associated with different responses; helping children identify strategies for “cooling off”; learning how to talk about feelings and listen carefully to someone else; and negotiating solutions. Initially the children work with the direction of a teacher. Ultimately, the children are empowered to take on the work independently.

By learning to stop oneself and articulate the facts of an issue, children are able to advocate for themselves. Learning to work through conflicts helps children take ownership of their problems, and gain confidence in their abilities to solve them. This effort requires the partnership of supportive and resilient parents. To help parents support this effort at home, Dr. Michael Schwartzman, a psychologist associated with MMS, will lead a series of nine conversations with parents about their concerns and questions as we together travel this road to develop resilience.