Conflict Resolution and Social Skill Development with Children

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Conducting psychodrama groups for children in an elementary school setting are extremely challenging because the interpersonal issues that emerge are complex and the institutional guidelines are limiting. The author recounts experiences with 10- to 13-year-old children placed in an elementary school special education program. The author used action techniques and psychodrama methods on a biweekly basis to help students communicate more positively with one another, allowing them to improve their status with peers in the classroom. Students' negative behavior in the classroom decreased, interactions with one another were more positive, and attitudes toward their own potential increased as a result of the psychodrama-based conflict resolution and skill-building training.

Key words: action methods with children, action techniques with special education students, conflict resolution with elementary school students, psychodrama with elementary school children

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IN THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, groups of children in the Augarten helped form some of Moreno's first impressions of spontaneity and creativity. From children came the spark that ignited what came to be psychodrama. It is, therefore, fitting that psychodrama be used to help students step out of the negative cultural norms (Kellar, Treadwell, Kumar, & Leach) of their classrooms and express empathy for one another, experiment with new and positive behaviors, and allow their creative, imaginative minds opportunities for expression. There is testimony to the effectiveness of using action methods with children. Slavson, as early as 1930, wrote about the effectiveness of activity group therapy in providing psychotherapy treatment for children (Lomonaco, Scheidlinger, & Aronson, 2000). In the early 1970s, Standford and Roark (1974) wrote about using role-playing and other action methods in the classroom to create cohesion and a good working environment. Specific to the special education population, Mishna and Muskat (2004) noted that children and adolescents with learning disabilities are vulnerable to experiencing various social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties that can best be helped in group settings. To that end, using the groups that already exist in special education classrooms can be effective. Moreno and Zachariah (2005) focus on the use of sociodrama and psychodrama methods to promote inclusion in the classroom. Their work reinforces the value of J. L. Moreno's techniques in helping children see in what ways they connect with one another and develop empathy for one another. When children stop defending against the similarities and differences and accept one another and themselves, the level of conflict in the classroom is diminished.

Psychodramatists intent on bringing action methods to schools will find little in the literature specific to using psychodrama with children in groups. In addition, there is minimal institutional support in elementary schools for the use of action techniques to help students learn conflict resolution and social skills and to increase children's self-esteem. In this article, I introduce the use of action methods as a means of teaching conflict resolution and social skills in a public school environment. This use was prefaced by an in-service training session presented to the elementary school faculty and staff members to demonstrate how action techniques are used to deploy interpersonal conflicts in the classroom and reduce tension among students.

Project Background

In an in-service training program workshop, I presented instruction on using action methods to reduce interpersonal conflicts in the classroom and tension between the students and the elementary public school's faculty and staff members. As a result of that workshop, one of the social workers respected the sociometry experience to the degree that he included psychodrama groups in a grant that he was writing to secure funds to provide conflict resolution and self-esteem groups to the children in his school. …