Young Peacemakers for the Early Years

I’m so excited we got the Young Peacemakers book for my rising 5 year old. We got it so we could use a common language and framework for conflict resolution, and teach him more about how to correctly express himself without getting in trouble for needing to tell us what he needs. He does a fairly decent job of self-control for a little guy with a hot fuse at his age, but hey, we call need help with self-control and self-expression, don’t we?

It’s recommended for 3rd through 7th graders, but if you want to make this book accessible to your younger kids too, here’s how I did it.

Tools you need to do this how I did it:

This book is split into 3 main sections: understanding, responding and preventing conflict. I’m not covering them in order with my son. Following the classical model, and going top down, this is the order I’m using:

  • Chapter 1: We will define conflict and see on a high level how we can respond to conflict
  • Chapter 6: We will look at what the Bible says about honoring God
  • Chapter 8: We’ll look at the freedom we find in forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: The Five A’s for resolving conflict

Then, we will back into the rest:

  • Chapter 3: Choices have consequences
  • Chapter 4: Making choices the wise way
  • Chapter 10: Think before you speak
  • Chapter 11: The communication pie
  • Chapter 2: What causes conflict
  • Chapter 9: Altering choices
  • Chapter 12: Making a respectful appeal

Of course, you may decide to use a different order – this is just what makes sense to me for our family.

Due to the age of my older son, who will be 5 soon, we are learning through games and interactive tools. I have leveraged the book’s tools to make my own ‘manipulatives’.

I’ll share pictures of what I created in the order that I’ll be using them. And I’m sure you can figure how to use the book’s images in tandem with the pie charts and brass brads to create your own at home.

For chapter 1, I laminated the slippery slope after adding a little color to more visibly show my son the danger vs safe responses to conflict. This is hanging on our wall at home for reference now.

I also made print outs of the images we found on pages 23-27 that further defines each type of response. We will use these cards to play games, put them in order of the slippery slope, and to test our memory of what the terms mean. We will act out these types of responses, examine the responses of people we read about in books and ponder how the books would end if the characters had responded differently to each other, and certainly use the suggested activities and Bible stories in the Peacemaker book as well.

The images below share the same colors I used in the slippery slope above, and are laminated on card stock as well. The backs of the cards have their matching descriptions from the book. I just used a glue stick to glue them onto a rectangular shaped piece of card stock to center the images and words.

It’s obvious the lesson lengths are much longer than a 5 year old can take in at one sitting. We will do the whole lesson, but in 3-4 sessions, playing our games in-between lessons. We will also add the corresponding memory verse to our memory work for the weeks we are doing each chapter.

In chapter 6, the book discusses honoring God through conflict by trusting Him, serving others, and growing to be more like Christ. I made a pie chart for my son to play with while we discuss how we wish to respond to conflict. I’m doing this chapter second because we lead with desired behavior in our home whenever we can. Here are some example questions you can use with your kids at home too:

  • Wow, that was awesome obedience! You obeyed me ‘all the way, right away and with a cheerful heart!’
  • I’m sure proud of you because you really pleased God when you [insert victory]
  • I can tell your heart is growing more like Christ’s because you [insert victory]
  • You really demonstrated a new attitude when you [insert difference]. You used to [insert old habit], and now more and more I see you showing more [insert fruit of the Spirit]. I can tell you’re working hard. Praise God!]
  • Let’s look at what happened together. God allowed this [insert experience] to happen. Then He used it to [insert lesson]. And you showed maturity when you [insert response].
  • Is that doing good?
  • How is that serving your friend?
  • How can you bless your friend? your father? your sibling? me?
  • How can you imitate God? What does the Bible say about [insert struggle].
  • Does that [insert behavior] honor God? How can you do that better?

On pages 47, the book outlines main root desires that cause conflict, and the two kinds of choices people can make as a result of our desires. The pie chart below is just so we can review again where conflict comes from and the kinds of choices we can make in response to them. We will discuss at what point we go wrong in our decision-making. We will revisit this again when we talk about chapter 2, but I’m ‘spiraling’ back on purpose to this tool below.

In chapter 8 we look at how to forgive. We will memorize this simple poem below: good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.” And my son can color this page if he wants with wipe off markers. Chapter 8 really does a deep dive into the falsehoods of forgiveness, and how it looks different in God’s economy: what it really looks like to fully forgive someone, when to forgive, and the why’s and how’s of forgiveness. This is a chief lesson of life. I wanted to hit this lesson sooner rather than later.

In chapter 7, we will use a spin dial to work our way around how to really forgive someone else properly, and make sure we’re addressing the three principles of forgiveness: repentance, confession and forgiveness which underlie the steps outlined below. We will use this tool again and again until we’ve got it down.

And now we are ready to back into the rest of the meat in more depth.

We already understand choices have consequences in our home, but we will visit this again in chapter 3. I didn’t make a tool for this chapter, but we will really review the concepts on page 54: the lists of consequences for wise vs poor choices. Then we will discuss how to make wise choices in chapter 4. This chapter reinforces chapter 3 quite nicely.

From chapter 10, we will learn how to think before we speak. This is my favorite lesson from the book! When we’re over the heated emotional part of conflict, we’ll go back to work our way through this dial below. As you know with young children, you have to ‘bring the temperature down’ before you can have any real conversations about what happened and how they are feeling. We separate and calm down before we examine and talk about how situations could be handled with more gentleness, wisdom, and kindness in the future.

In chapter 11 we will focus on how we are communicating. We struggle with attitudes in our home, so this chapter on self-expression is paramount. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of the inside of the ‘pie’ for you for this one. But the pie is divided into 4 main sections: respectful words, respectful tone of voice, respectful body language, and respectful listening. In each pie slice, I’ve written some examples of each of the main sections. In respectful words, it says things like gentle answers, one message. In respectful tone of voice, it says things like pleasant tone, normal volume. In respectful body language, I wrote things like good eye contact, friendly or compassionate expression, standing or sitting up straight. In respectful listening it says “I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean”, “Could you explain what you mean by that?”, “It’s hard to hear that, but I see”, and “I understand but disagree.”

We will finally go back to chapter 2 to look at what causes our conflicts.

In chapter 9 we can discuss how to make different choices, and we’ll add this to our layers of learning when we’re responding to problems. We’ll brainstorm how we could have avoided that particular conflict in the future, and problem-solve together to prevent more occurrences like the one at hand.

And finally in chapter 12 we will learn how we make a respectful appeal. We’ll learn what an appeal is, and how and when to make one. We can practice by making mock situations, or if we come across a real instance when it’s appropriate, then we will be well equipped.

This book has a lot of depth for a 5 year old, and even for a 9 year old. We will most likely revisit this book every 2-3 years or so for reminders, and for the next child of mine up and coming to this age. I’m glad we now have a framework for conflict to use in our home.

What we did prior to this was similar, but had a little less structure because it was more appropriate for a younger child. Now that we’re getting into higher cognition and awareness, we’re addressing the heart issues more and more, and training my older son how to ask God to examine his, and request changes from other people.

Classical education calls for defining grammar first, then application and finally self-expression. That approach may help you see why we focus on definitions and memorization so much. To ensure mastery of this topic, before we move from lesson to lesson, I’ll make sure my son can tell me the various steps, lists, or attributes from each major category we’re studying. We memorize through games, stories, pneumonic devices, song, and movement. (Believe me, his power for memorization is stronger than mine. I’m studying the skill of memorization right now through two books, just so I can keep up with him!) Then, when we’re applying the terms to real situations we will have agreed on a basis for the conversation, a method of assessment and some pathways to resolution.

I hope you’ve found this helpful!


Life Lessons Series: Community is Better than Isolation

To be lonely is different than being alone.  Being alone sometimes is necessary, but being lonely is not.

A sixth way to expand your child’s world is to help him or her learn how to become a part of various communities.  A community is defined by proximity, shared goals and interests, or a shared identity or purpose.  In contrast, isolation is not belonging, or being separate either by your own hand or someone else’s.

Traveling long distances, communicating across the globe, and accessing information is getting easier, so as the world is expanding, it’s also easier to interact less.  People are less prone to live near family members, less likely to stay in the same community for generations, and rely less on friends, families, and neighbors than they did before.

The world is also shrinking, because we can fill up our lives with the wrong activities, so much so, that the experiences that give us actual emotional substance happen less often.  Today’s financial pressures cause more and more families to need two incomes to survive, and we are inundated with ‘busy-ness’.  What gives us real substance are those experiences when we are in community together.  When you help build up a person or group, and proliferate ideas or resources for the greater good, is when you gain substance.  I met a girl once who said, “my parents were well off, but they lacked substance”.  That’s a fascinating observation and affected her entire well-being.  I admired her for choosing to be different.

Life Lesson: “We give back to our community because it’s better for everyone, even us.”  If you’re not used to investing in your community, it might take some small experiences for you to see how it truly is better for everyone, and how it benefits you personally.  The penalty of isolating yourself is too high not to try.  By the way, you will need to make constant effort to be part of communities.  You, and the communities in which you belong, are in constant flux with regard to needs, fit, lifestyle or ‘culture’, and therefore ‘season’.

Einstein once said, “It’s strange to be known so universally and yet be so lonely.”  Regardless of your ‘station’ and personality, you must learn how to be a giver and a receiver.  Here are some baby steps to living better ‘in community’.  

  1. Name all the communities in which you belong, starting with your nuclear family and radiating outward until you realize you’re in community with mankind on Earth as well.  For example, I am part of my nuclear family, extended family, and my neighborhood, city, state, region, and country, and nations.  I am part of a community group for moms and babies, called Active Mama’s, and a homeschool group.  I am part of a prayer ministry and the people that share the same faith.  I am part of my alumni classes from two universities.  I am part of my work teams.  I am a part of my local Toastmaster’s chapter and Le Leche League Chapter.  I am a part of several different online communities.  I am among the very blessed adopted people on the Earth.  I am a female, and I represent the young thirty year olds in America.  You get the idea.
  2. Now, clarify how you belong in each group.  Are you a silent member, serve on a team, a leader, a volunteer, an expatriate? How much time do you devote to the group?  With whom and when do you interact?  Anyone you’d like to interact with but need an introduction?  How do these interactions feel to you?  Why are you experiencing these particular feelings?  Are there any unserved needs of yours for which you need to find a different community?   Which community will you forgo in order to make room for the new one?
  3. Write down why you are part of each group. What purpose does the group serve in your life?  What do you gain?  What do you give?  How much impact do you want to have, and how much do you want to impact the group, and at what level?  Could anyone else you know benefit from one of your communities?
  4. What are your action items from this exercise?  Is there anything you need to change as a result of this exercise?  On what timetable?  Any new realizations?  Do any of your action items require input or resources from other people?  What can you do about these changes in the next 2 days?

Once you can do this for yourself, you can do this exercise for your child.  Once you can do this exercise for your child, you can teach your child how to do this exercise for him- or herself.

Let me be more specific.  You can work with your child on how to cooperate and communicate; be well-liked, respected and valued; and get involved in community affairs.  You can learn how to stay informed, have a voice, be a good neighbor, and why and how to protect the environment.  You will learn when and how to obey ‘laws and rules’ and respect authority, and when and how to create changes and become a leader.  Your child will learn that community is better than isolation, and that being alone is sometimes necessary, but feeling lonely is not.  Your child will learn how to do that ‘higher level thinking’, that helps him or her see the big picture, have an opinion, and assert that opinion through tactical and practical steps for the greater good.  You will also both learn when and how to gracefully ‘bow out’ or ‘step down’.

I’m wondering how you all feel about this specific life lesson.  How motivated are you in your strategic decisions about the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ in your life?  What is the moment that causes you to get off your seat and move your feet, use your voice, and rally together?  Are you happier floating in the breeze, and taking life as it comes, or playing an active role in your outcomes?  P.S. I don’t think there’s necessarily a wrong answer here, as long as you realize the ‘absence of choices and voices’ is still a choice.  Finally, what other ideas do you have to help your children, and me, become healthy members of communities?

Love, Robyn

Life Lesson Series: Responsibility is Better than Immunity

Who is the most accountable person you know?

A fifth way to expand your child’s world is to help them become responsible humans.  Responsibility.  Responsibility is doing your tasks, taking care of your belongings, answering to your actions, following through on your word, and showing others you are dependable.  It leads to promotions in the workplace, better friendships, and far more functional family lives.

Responsibility is not easily learned.  We start by teaching our child to pick up his/her toys, care for belongings, and then finish homework.  Later we teach the child to tell the truth, return borrowed items on time, and apologize if necessary.  At some point, your child needs to learn why these lessons are important, and start internalizing each one.  In high school, teenagers should understand how to save, spend and donate money; how to treat their bodies in a way that promotes health; how to be a good friend and citizen; and how to be persistent in their goals.

Life Lesson: “Doing the right thing is hard sometimes, but you can do it.”  It’s true, isn’t it?  Doing what’s best is difficult.  Doing the right thing requires bravery, strength of will, and knowing what’s right in the first place.  It also requires a ‘get up and go’ attitude, and clear definition of tasks to be completed.

I took an ethics class in 2010.  It gave clear examples of how it’s very difficult to know what is right in particular situations, especially across cultures.  As humans, our values, traditions, non-verbal and verbal language, sense of fairness, age, maturity, security level, and much more, are all important factors to knowing what’s right.

Bravery and strength of will are developed through small triumphant trials repeated again and again.  Catch opportunities to identify when doing the right thing may have been hard for your child, and praise him/her for it.  Help him/her talk about how (s)he felt and decided to do the right thing.  Do not chastise your child for making mistakes.  Instead ask questions about how the child arrived at a particular conclusion and brainstorm better solutions (leading to better outcomes) together.  What a fantastic communicator you will have one day if you discuss hard issues regularly!

Help your child avoid laziness by demonstrating you’re not lazy yourself.  The use of appropriate rewards is a nice motivator too.  Try to understand how your child is best rewarded: a gift, praise, a pat on the back, spending time together experiencing or doing [insert item], or getting a free pass to skip the task every now and again because of consistent performance.  Make sure these rewards are age appropriate.  For my toddler, all he usually needs to hear is ‘I’m proud of you!’, or ‘I knew you could do it, or ‘Look, you did it all by yourself!’

Finally, ensure you are giving clear instructions.  We have all been in situations where we are unclear what someone else wants.  Make your instruction specific and descriptive.  Avoid ambiguous words.  Break larger tasks into smaller steps while your child is learning the new skill.  Assign achievable tasks. For example, consider the phrase: “I want you to clean up this room”.  How does a child interpret that sentence?  It’s better to say (to a toddler):

  • “I want you to put your toys in their bins, please.”  Wait for the child to do it, and then say “Thank you, good job! Now, please, put the bins on the shelves.”
  • Wait for the child to do it, and then say “Thank you, good job! Please wipe off the table now”.  And so on.
  • At the end of the whole task, you can tell the child, “See, that’s how to clean up the room!  And you did it all yourself!  Great job listening!”

As your child matures, if you’re instilling a sense of responsibility, you’ll find yourself having conversations with him/her about being self-disciplined, planning, persevering, doing their best, thinking ahead of time, accountability, and role models, etc.  Plant good seeds now.

How do you teach your kids responsibility in your home?  Is there anything to add to this list?

Love, Robyn

Life Lessons Series: Trusting is Better than Doubting

A third way to expand your child’s world is to teach him or her to be trusting.  Assume the best in other people.  Believe.  I think the best way to demonstrate you can trust people is to show your child how you give others the benefit of the doubt, or how you show grace.  The place this lesson starts is in the home, between you and your loved ones.    

No, you can’t trust everyone.  Children shouldn’t automatically trust strangers.  However, if you can teach your kids that you can live a life void of paranoia, you will all benefit.  Need to read more about the advantages?  Click here or here.

Life lesson: ‘I know you want to do the right thing.’ – that’s what I tell my son.  Instead of making statements about how my son may consistently do an activity poorly, or not listen, or even hit others, I tell him affirming statements to help him shape the way he talks to himself.  Then I help show him how to correct it.

We have so many opportunities to show we trust people.  We trust people when:

  • we don’t micromanage
  • we don’t nag
  • we start moving towards the car after telling the kids it’s time to get into the car (versus herding them up and hand-holding each one, for example)
  • we give the benefit of the doubt
  • we use positive speech
  • we forgive – my son apologizes and gives hugs
  • we encourage and invite them to try again – in fact, my son already says “Try again” (and he’s under 2 years old)

Of course, there are many moments trust is broken (with varying degrees of severity or impact).  It’s foolish not to address these ‘you-broke-my-trust’ times.  We don’t ignore these teachable moments, but we don’t make mountains or set up altars for sacrifice and demand penance (ha, ha) out of small matters either.  We don’t keep score and we don’t look back.  If there’s a pattern or trend we notice, we look for behavior triggers, how we can break bad habits, and form new ones.  We implement new rewards for breakthroughs, according to the degree of worthiness of those breakthroughs.  Then it’s time to move forward.  Yay!

In your everyday life, are you trusting of others?  Do you ever view someone or some thing with a touch of doubt, or misbelief?  Are there moments you find it hard to forgive?

What are some good ways to demonstrate trust in your own actions?

  • Be fully honest about your feelings, all the time.  It helps to figure out the best way to express yourself (time, word choice, tone, delivery method, setting), but it doesn’t help to hide your feelings.
  • Follow through, on time… or at least let the interested party know why you’ll miss a target.  This includes keeping promises to your children.
  • Drum up courage to do the right thing, every time.  If you do the wrong thing, go back and correct it.
  • Apologize for your mistakes.  It’ll be easy to show your kids you’re not perfect (if you’re like me), but you should say it out loud to them.  That way, they don’t have to be perfect, too.  No one is perfect.  That’s what makes the world interesting.  It’s okay.
  • As long as it doesn’t violate your own principles, stand by your family, friends and nation.
  • Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, including ideas.  Don’t claim ownership of ideas, styles, belongings, (etc.) that you didn’t create.

If you can demonstrate your own trustworthiness, and also assume the best in others, while communicating when there is disparity, you will become a better communicator.  People will know what you want and need.  Your children will see you as a role model for integrity.

What are some practical ways you’ve shown your kids how to be trusting or trustworthy?

Love, Robyn Cooper

Life Lessons Series: Empowering is Better than Deflating

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Autonomy (noun) as the state of existing or acting separately from others; the power or right of a country, group, etc., to govern itself.

A second way to expand your child’s world is to help them find their own sense of pride in their autonomy. Empower.  Helping children become more autonomous takes more of your time and guidance up front, but it makes them shine brighter!

Sure, you may have extra spills, have to listen more carefully to their desires, and need to put your own agenda on the back-burner a little, but your child will more likely grow up to be more capable and competent individuals.  Need to read more about the benefits?  Click here.

Life lesson: “[Name], do [task] or mommy’s going to help you. 1. 2. 3.”  Normally I don’t have to count to 3.

I just shared a sentence I use multiple times throughout the day with my toddler.  I don’t resort to spanking.  My next level of discipline is to show him how to do the task at hand.  If he shares an emotion (starts having a tantrum, shows an attitude) I address his emotion too, but I help him complete the task.  Don’t we all want to be able to do things on our own?

10 reasons I love this sentence “Do it or mommy’s going to help you”:

  1. My toddler has the choice to complete a task on his own first.
  2. My toddler proves he can successfully do the task – he proves it to himself, and he proves it to me.
  3. My toddler prefers to do things on his own, in his own way – why impose my way when he watches how I do it anyway.  ‘My way’ of doing a particular task is not ‘the point’ to him.  He often tests theories he’s come up with on his own.  Does he tell me he has theories?  Duh, no (grin).  I just observe him employing various methods on his own.  Sometimes, he says ‘Mommy help’, or comes to get me for my help.  That’s my invitation to help him.
  4. My toddler has so many additional learning opportunities through the day because I try not to step in and take over.
  5. My toddler still doesn’t escape ‘essential tasks’ – these are the tasks we must do regardless of our circumstance.  For example, if he spills milk, he needs to clean it up.  If he hits a friend, he needs to say sorry and offer a hug.
  6. I am more conscious of my toddler’s interests
  7. I am aware of my toddler’s attention span and distractions
  8. I have become better at understanding my toddler’s verbal and non-verbal cues
  9. we address the attitudes of our hearts during this process
  10. I’ve read character is built in children by the age of 5, so I’m doing as much as possible to build his character now.  Being confident, capable, considerate, making your own choices, and willing to correct your mistakes are essential components.

What are some areas you can help empower your children more?  What are some other character lessons you teach your children?

Creating a Nice Morning

It can be hectic in the morning for moms, everyone knows that.  You can’t predict your children’s moods every day, the weather, everyone’s health, etc.

You can, however, do a few things each evening to set yourself up for success in the morning.  You can either do these things after the kids go to bed, or even better, have your kids help you after dinner each night.  Here are some ideas that will help you keep the chaos-factor down:

  • Have your kids help you prep tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Do the dishes after dinner and wipe down the table.  While you clean up the table, have your kids put their toys away.
  • Start the bath water.  While the bath is running, have your kids put their dirty clothes in the hamper each night.
  • While the kids are taking a bath, while you’re sitting next to them, look at tomorrow’s schedule and make a note of any necessary events including driving time, errands, or events and how this changes what you need to bring along.  If you need more snacks then you’ve packed tonight, make a note.
  • After the bath, the kids can get into pajamas, and they (or you) can set out the next day’s clothes.  This way, you avoid a confrontation in the morning regarding what they want to wear.  Pack the diaper bag if needed, but do it tonight.  It’ll be easier this way.
  • After everyone is in pajamas you are ready to spend quality time together winding down, reading and saying prayers.  If you want to use my wind-down meditation, see here.

I hope this helps you run smoother in the morning, and feel more productive each evening.  The nice thing about this routine is it helps teach your kids responsibility as well.

Comment with any additional routines you add a night which help create a smoother morning.

Love, Robyn

Little Moments

It’s the little moments that make us great mothers.  Your child is not going to remember that the house was spotless, or you made lots of money.  Your child won’t remember you were the most efficient person you knew.  Your child won’t recall how you had so many friends.

Your child will remember the kinds of words you used with him or her.  Do your words build up or destroy?

Your child will remember the kinds of looks you gave him or her.  Do your looks encourage or discourage?

Your child will remember the kinds of touches you extended towards him or her.  Do your touches show affection or instill fear?

Your child will remember the attitude you had with store clerks.  Do you show appreciation or are you perturbed?

Your child will remember that you stopped so (s)he could show you something (s)he achieved, observed or remembered.  I’ve discovered all people just want some basic dignities in life above food, clothing, and shelter: to be loved and respected, and to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Your child’s heart is a garden for which God made you the caretaker for just a whispering moment.  God gave you the soil.  Your job is to help that garden bear fruit by giving it good water and nutrition.  Your job is to keep out the little foxes, rodents, and insects that steal the fruit away and cut off the stems.  Your job is to prune down the weaknesses and encourage the strongest limbs to grow.  Your job is to make sure no fungus or parasite takes hold.  Your job is to pull up the weeds and fight the droughts.  Your job is to let in the sunshine.

Let’s all take a moment to ensure we are the best gardeners possible.  We are, after all, responsible for these tiny hearts.  One day we hope our kids will be mighty, courageous, and stand up for what they believe.

What’s one thing you will improve about your mothering as a result of your contemplation?