Teaching Students the Conflict Cycle

One thing we can do to help students learn from their behaviors is teach them the conflict cycle. If you connect a feeling to a student’s behavior, and that student accepts it, the student is less likely to act out those feelings again in a destructive manner. Remember, what we can mention, we can manage. Adults need to provide children with age appropriate dialogue in order to bring discussion of complex life events into the open. Teaching students the conflict cycle and how they fall into it is a great way to help the student gain insight into their self-defeating behavior. There are several ways to teach the conflict cycle; a brief explanation of different methods are explained below. The important idea to keep in mind is that this should be done before any consequence for the student’s action has been given.  The reason for this will be explained in the first example.

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This first method is one that can work with almost any age group.  In the circle above the A, you have the student write his or her feelings or thoughts about the incident. In the B circle, you have the student write what his or her behavior was based upon those feelings.  In the C circle, you have the student write what the staff’s reaction was to their behavior. The nice thing about this is that you can start at A, B or C and work forwards or backwards. So, if you did not see the event but the student was sent to your office, you would probably start with C since that was the staff’s reaction. After the student has filled out all three circles, then ask a self-evaluation question, “Did this behavior help you or hurt you?” Hopefully they answer it hurt me, if they do not, go to the fallback question, “Was what you did against the rules?” After that you want to ask a pro-social question, “What will you do next time?” You do not want to ask, “What won’t you do?” We want a positive plan of action for next time.  Then you take them through the cycle again, this time using the pro-social plan as the behavior and seeing how the student did not get into trouble.

Now is when you give the consequences. You say,  “We have a plan for next time,” and ask them what that plan is again. Then you say, “Unfortunately, we did not have a plan for this time, so you know there are consequences for your actions,” and you give them the appropriate consequences. By doing it here at the end, the student is more likely to accept the consequences since he or she felt listened to, respected and has a plan for next time.

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The second example is more like a contract and is good for your middle and high school students. I have four class rules (which are broad enough to cover almost everything) printed at the top so the student can see them. For number 1, I have the student write out the whole rule, not just the number. If they answer that it is hurting them, I skip to number three.  If they say that it is helping them, I have them answer number 3. Number 4 is just the pro-social plan, “What will I do next time?” Number 5 is being realistic. We all would love to say forever, but we know that is not the case. We are trying to help the students be successful, so try short periods of time like the until the end of the week, or for the more troubled kids then end of the day or even the end of the period. The staff and student both sign it. Then they sign it again upon the completion of the contract and the student walks away with a success feeling better about him or herself.

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This next one is a little more abstract but functions really well for older students. All the boxes, except for the first one is divided into an A column and a B column. The A column is the conflict cycle, the B column is the pro-social plan.

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This one is good for younger students. The paper gets folded in half. On the what happened side you have the student write (or draw depending on age) in the box what happened. Then flip the paper over and have them fill out the what can you do next time side with their pro-social plan.

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