Mon | Oct 16, 2017

Teach parenting to help manage conflict in schools

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Dr Hixwell Douglas (standing), assistant chief education officer, Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education, engages Paula Nash in an activity during a conflict management workshop held recently at the Caenwood Centre for parent-participants in The Re-Birth Project.

Equipping parents with effective parenting skills could be a powerful strategy in managing conflict, especially among at-risk youth.

Working with parent participants at the Re-Birth Project recently, Dr Hixwell Douglas, assistant chief education officer, Special Education Unit in the education ministry, said he noted three main areas in his sessions on conflict management with the inner-city parents. These included major parenting skills deficit, parents lack of empathy for what children are internalising, and ignorant to the importance of modelling positive behaviours.

"Conflict is a part of parenting. If you can learn how to speak, note differences in tone, listen, and identify triggers as well as feel with the children, then we can teach the children tolerance and standards. If in the parenting role we model respect, good conversation and speech, the children will do it themselves. Additionally, when parents understand the root causes of behaviours displayed, they will be better able to manage conflicts," Douglas said.

Conflict Resolution

"In the first staging of the project, conflict resolution was just one of the topics over the nine-week programme. But after meeting with the schools in planning this phase, we realised there was a grave and urgent need to reinforce the lesson for both the students and parents," Michelle Cunningham, programme director and co-founder, Re-Birth Project, said.

In the two-part conflict management workshop, Re-Birth Project co-founder Melody Cammock-Gayle said that much emphasis had to be given to this particular area. "With the increased reports of fights, expulsions, and suspensions, we are seeing the need to provide both children and adults with actionable solutions to managing disagreements that end badly," Cammock-Gayle said.

"You can't preach what you don't know. The parents didn't pay attention to much of the post-traumatic and cultural matters their children experience, which shape their behaviour. On top of that, parents thought it was OK to use a rough approach. Using healthy conversation to clarify issues can help children to learn to talk it out, express their feelings and not fight it out," Douglas said.

In commending the programme, the crisis intervention counsellor suggested that the organisers involve more parents in the project as well as train some parents to become facilitators and trainers in their communities.

opportunities for learning

He further explained that conflict is not always negative, but also offers opportunities for learning, growth, and development. "It may be bad, but you can learn from it. Learn from it and use it as a tool for future action," Douglas explained.

Currently in phase two, The Re-Birth Project was launched last March as an intervention initiative for at-risk youth from the Norman Manley and Tivoli Gardens High schools. The programme, endorsed by the Ministry of Education and the National Parenting Support Commission, is aimed at building resilience, reducing delinquency, and inspiring youth 14-17 years old, while equipping their parents with the necessary skills and resources for better parenting.