Let’s face it: Kids have diverse opinions and they’re bound to disagree with one another. Today arguments occur not only in the hallway or classroom, but online as well. And whether or not these conflicts escalate can depend on how well students recognize and manage their emotions.
There are many ways to help build self-control in the face of rising frustration, whether students turn to meditation or build constructed arguments on the fly. Since we live in a democracy that values passionate and polarizing views — especially in our educational systems — it’s all the more important to know how to help kids manage their feelings responsibly.
Here are some tips and tools for seamlessly integrating self-control and life-skills-building into the classroom.
One way to promote healthy debate is by showing students that good arguments are based on thorough preparation. This game lets students select claims and evidence to become more persuasive. Once they learn the art of the argument, students can debate some tough topics online or in class. By practicing the game’s techniques, students will be ready for that next conflict with facts, and not have to resort to underhanded tactics or name-calling.
A website filled with podcasts covering current events, Listenwise is a good platform for students to practice patience when confronted with controversial ideas or opposing views that appear in the news on topics like race, politics and religion. As students listen, they can describe and rank the strength of their emotions as the story progresses. Then, they can analyze how their reactions changed over time, reflect on how diverse opinions made them feel, and make a strategy for being mindful in the future.
Twitter has been a go-to platform for teens and adults to air grievances, and the consequences can have a lasting impact on people’s digital footprints. Twitter is also a valuable communications tool that can be a great way to share ideas and engage in conversations. Kids need to understand the risks of social sharing and can be taught the importance of using the tool conscientiously by seeing some of the consequences of tweeting emotionally or impulsively. Students can tweet about a topic from class. But before it goes out into the world, they can write out how they think people will react to it.
Smiling Mind is an app that helps students practice meditation through breathing exercises and visualizations. Practicing some of these self-calming skills have been shown to help kids focus at school and at home. Smiling Mind can help kids learn lifelong skills to cope with stress and stay calm. Hopefully the next time they get into an argument, they’ll remember to just breathe.
This article’s content is an extension of the We All Teach SEL blog series from Common Sense Education. Check it out for a complete look at social and emotional learning in the classroom.