Any parent or educator who believes, as we do, in the importance of developing children’s individual strengths must also be concerned with conflict. Where there is diversity, there will always be conflict. If a parent or teacher is different from a student, if they see things differently, there will be conflict. If two students have diverse ways of looking at the world, there will be conflict. Conflict is natural and should be expected. But, as I say in my seminars and courses, “Conflict is okay; violence is not!”
Part of the joy and privilege of living in a democratic society is being able to have a unique viewpoint and not be punished for it. Moreover, diverse individuals who work together can create powerful positive change. We want our children to contribute their special gifts to diverse groups: their families, their circle of friends, their communities, and their world. This is why conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and other interpersonal skills are always integrated into the programs we promote.
Children need positive role models and plenty of practice to learn to appreciate differences between people. An example of a negative role model was demonstrated by a research study of the Girl Scout Institute upon the relationships fostered by many reality television shows. “The vast majority (of girls interviewed) think these shows ‘often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting’ (86%), ‘make people think that fighting is a normal part of a romantic relationship’ (73%), and ‘make people think it’s okay to treat others badly (70%).’” http://www.girlscouts.org/research/pdf/real_to_me_factsheet.pdf
For a positive model, participate in “Pay It Forward,” a movement akin to “Random Acts Of Kindness,” http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas in which you do good deeds just for the fun of it: “In 2012, people from 52 countries participated in Pay it Forward Day with individuals working on proclamations in 36 states and 41 cities…For this year’s international Pay it Forward Day (PIFD) (the organization is) aiming to inspire over 5 million acts of kindness around the world.” http://payitforwardday.com/
Consider the contrast. For me, I want my children, grandchildren and students to practice kindness rather than aggression. Perhaps, then, when they are running the government and ruling the world, they will be able to work together, contributing their individual creative talents, for the common good.
Postscript: One way to begin, even when children are very young is to read stories from Leo Lionni, Bernard Most (The Cow That Went Oink), Patricia Pollacco, and other authors that promote a positive sense of self and empathetic relationships with others.