After an unprecedented year of catch-as-catch-can learning, most students will feel a tad behind the eightball, which is expected. That's book-smarts; how about emotional intelligence?
Let's be honest, for some students, not having to face an aggressive and insensitive classmate during online classes has been a blessing. But now kids are back together, where words and actions aren't buffered by fully-present teachers, cyberspace, and muted microphones.
Veera Mahajan, who is at the forefront of dispute resolutions, says it could go one of two ways: students will either come back with an attitude of a clean slate – open to all who are different – or the "mean girl/guy" syndrome will prevail. "I am hopeful that the distance diluted the power of cliques, where groups of children form an alliance to belittle and reign over one another. Unfortunately, the converse may be true – that the time pent-up at home has merely fueled the child's need to take control and dominate."
Mahajan reminds parents that children's brains are not fully developed until their mid-twenties, and that fact impacts their decision-making. The Los Angeles practitioner says Emotional Intelligence is a skill that has to be developed. "Parents don't like to hear it, but if your child is a bully – you must ask yourself; was I the role model?" Mahajan says it can be subtle, an eye-roll, or a negative comment under one's breath. "Children are sponges, and they see their parents as the ultimate teacher. It's sounds cliché, but be the example." She contends parents must set clear examples and guidelines to shepherd youngsters into thoughtful, non-violent interaction.
In addition to her education, Ms. Mahajan brings her personal journey to the table, providing a unique perspective of the victim/abuser psyche and techniques to reign in and redirect negative behavior. "I don't just resolve disputes. I teach students to respect themselves and others so they have better relationships in the future.
Mahajan has more than 15 years as a mediator, and she has proven success. Michael Smith, Principal of Our Lady of Malibu, attests, "We've reduced conflicts and violence by 75% by having Veera as a mediator to resolve bigger disputes." By teaching mediation skills to students, they now have the ability to remedy most of their conflicts with peers and siblings. "Veera doesn't just resolve disputes; she teaches students to respect themselves and others, so they have better relationships in the future."
"In my experience," contends Mahajan," I've discovered that poor communication, unmet expectations, and lack of negotiating skills are at the root of violence. I've developed techniques that allow students and adults to find win-win resolutions through peaceful negotiation."
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