Oct Blog

I Feel Angry!

President Ronald Regan once said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

Conflict among elementary school children is natural; it’s even healthy.  Through conflict, children can learn self-control, boundary navigation and compromise.

Whether the conflict is rooted in possession disputes (“It’s mine!”), play arguments (“She’s not being fair!”), or power struggles (“I don’t want to!”), successful conflict resolution has three main steps: Listen to how the other person feels; understand what they need; and agree on how to make it right.  And at the heart of all of three steps are “I-Statements.”

“I-statements” refer to making clear statements (that start with the word “I”) about how the ways other people’s actions make you feel and the steps you will take to improve the situation.

Here’s an example of how children use I-statements at Right At School:

Student 1: I feel mad when you take my pencil.

Student 2: I know that you feel mad when I take your pencil. I feel sad when you yell at me.

Student 1: I know that you feel sad when I yell at you.

Student 2: What can I do to make it right?

Student 1: I need you to ask before you take my pencil.

Student 2: I will ask before I take your pencil.

Student 1: Thank you. What can I do to make it right?

Student 2: I need you to not yell at me.

Student 1: I will not yell at you anymore.

Student 2: Thank you.

Student 1: Thank you.

I-statements help students avoid blaming others for their own emotions.  They provide more accurate (and less aggressive) means for expressing emotions, and they reduce the likelihood that the other child feels guilty.  They help children develop empathy by hearing their impact on others. Most importantly, they set the stage to solve the problems the children are experiencing.

While we can’t guarantee peace at all times, teaching our children to use I-Statements can help us resolve conflicts peacefully.



Mark Rothschild, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO, Right At School


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