Teaching Peace to Preschoolers

This week, I had the opportunity to be “Parent of the Day” at my daughter’s preschool, Eden Cooperative Nursery School, in Eden, New York. We chose this school for her specifically because it was community-based, cooperative (meaning it is co-owned by the families and teachers) and utilized the Montessori method of education. One of the things that first drew my interest several years ago to the Montessori approach to early childhood education was the Peace Table. The Peace Table is a place in the classroom for children to resolve conflicts between themselves. (I can hear you’re thinking : preschoolers resolving conflict by themselves? REALLY?). Really.

On the wall next to the Peace Table

The Montessori approach is to education focuses on teaching children through the practical environment. And while it stresses independence, it also builds interdependence through modeling relationship skills to children. So when children have an escalating conflict in the Montessori classroom, they are invited to the Peace Table where they talk through their problems.

Peace Table

Peace Table at Eden Co-Op

In most classrooms, the  “Peace Talk” begins by ringing a bell, placing a hand on the heart or holding the Peace Rose to signal whose turn it is to talk, and then using “I” statements to describe the feelings they experienced due to each other’s behavior, apologizing and working out the problem. Teachers may help children through this process early on in the year but as time goes on in the classroom, the children will usually start to go to the table themselves when needed.

The Peace Table and Talk are part of an overall approach to peace education that is included in the Montessori method. Watch the great video clip below that describes how children benefit from early education in peace and conflict resolution.

Educating for Peace Video

My daughter’s teacher, Ms. Lindsi, reports that the children have not  needed to use the Peace Table at all since the start of the fall classes this year at the Co-op. So far, everyone is working together in the full spirit of the school’s name.

One of the things I am learning about Montessori is that there are many ways to bring this teaching approach to my parenting approach. Starting tomorrow, they’ll be a peace table in our home as well to deal with all that sibling conflict. Here’s a great post from the blog Critters & Crayons about how her children worked through a conflict at McDonalds and then taught Mom and Dad about using the Peace Table to mend their own conflict.

How do you teach peace to the young children in your lives?

“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education…” ~ Maria Montessori

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