As teachers we need to be mindful of the words and body language we model to pupils. Carefully chosen language is vital to producing the kinds of understandings that help pupils make pro-social choices. Our language needs to reflect mutual respect, rights, responsibilities and choices. Through words, we create supportive environments that assume pupils can resolve conflict without violence and make restitution for their mistakes.
Consider the following examples of language patterns and the underlying principles they reflect.
Choice and responsibility: “How come you decided to hit him?”
This question implies there was an element of choice and responsibility and invites communication.
Supportive approach: “You will need to go to the detention room and work out a way to solve this problem.”
This implies the child is able to solve the problem and receive support if needed.
Empathy: “How do you think she felt when you said that to her?”
This statement invites the child to develop empathy for the other child and opens communication.
Problem solving and restitution: “What are some of the things you could try to meet this challenge?”
This statement implies confidence in the child’s ability to solve the problem and make restitution for the acts.
Accusatory: “Why did you hit him?”
This question may have an accusatory element that makes children resentful and possibly limits communication.
Punitive approaches: “I’m putting you on detention.”
This implies punishment and if over used may lead to revenge cycles in children.
Emotional violence: “Look what you have done, you’ve made her cry.”
The accusatory nature of this statement may make the child feel guilty or defensive, leading to resentment and closed communication.
Sarcasm: “You had better think of something good to explain this.”
There is an element of sarcasm in this statement with the implication that the child is not able to solve the problem.
Source: Council of Europe Violence Reduction in Schools Handbook
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