I was listening to one of our trainings at Lakeside. Some of the options were compared and contrasted for how we can choose to handle behavior problems in our students.
When we encounter problems with behavior we have three choices.
- Use our authority to impose our will.
- Just ignore the behavior and do nothing.
- Or, we can create a relationship of collaborative problem-solving in which we engage our students and work toward a mutually acceptable outcome that creates change and growth.
Each of the options for dealing with difficult behaviors and situations can be used constructively.
Imposing our will can be most effective when there is high threat of harm, or when there is no option for compromise.
Ignoring the problem—at least temporarily—can also be helpful when there are too many other issues that need to be addressed. Of those issues, we prioritize which to handle and which to place down the list.
The third option is the best because it promotes engagement, compromise and new resolution. It is certainly the most productive, calming, and positive option as we join together in collaborative problem-solving.
Creating safe and productive environments for individuals to function requires that we have the capacity to engage everyone to focus on the common goals that we desire to achieve.
When we encounter problems that cause conflict and discord, a more intense commitment is required to resolve them. Resolution best occurs if we are working together toward some outcome of change and growth.
This approach is not only valuable to engage students but also for any of our systems dealing with problematic situations.
Too frequently our systems use the “I will impose my will on you” choice as the primary means of problem-solving. In fact, some systems exclusively use that approach as they attempt to fix societal ills. However, this approach usually puts one party at a significant disadvantage because it does not create equity nor engagement, and so it is unhelpful toward an outcome or resolution.
The imposition of power as the only strategy for resolving problems disregards individuals who have less capacity in the situation. It leaves them powerless, hopeless, and incapable of feeling a sense of their impact in the situation and in their lives.
As we witness such tremendous polarization in our systems and country, we constantly experience power struggles in which two parties are attempting to impose their will on the other. It leaves us helpless, angry, and incapable to make changes that are so important to change, growth and compromise.
I believe that we need more systems to listen, understand, calmly explore our personal and societal problems and come up with some level of agreement.
Even a mutual starting place can be helpful to effect change.
Collaborative problem-solving is good for students, good for organizations, and good for our systems that are supposed to be caring for those in need. Engaging each other in a productive and positive dialogue can be life-giving, respectful and effective.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to realize what kind of new energy and momentum we could create with an approach that involved collaborative problem-solving? It is truly a positive way for people of diverse viewpoints and differences to come together and find productive and resonant common ground!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO