PEACE Initiative (Personal Empowerment And Conflict Examination) provides girls the skills they need to communicate effectively and to mediate conflict with respect and a sense of responsibility.
Bullying has always been an issue faced by youth. But, in recent years we have seen just how profound an effect bullying can have on youth. Youth are often ridiculed for many reasons, including their sexual orientation, height, weight, looks, nationality and economic status. With the emergence and subsequent popularity of text messages, social networking, and other on-line forums, bullying has been on the rise. And, the intensity of the bullying has increased because of the somewhat anonymous or removed method of bullying.
People say bullying and teasing is a part of growing up. But it doesn’t have to be.
We have learned that the first step in working with a girl enrolled at Girls Inc. is to work with her on effective communications skills. Throughout a girl’s time here, we equip her with the tools she needs to maintain effective communications skills and to properly and effectively deal with conflict.
Any organization serving youth will need to manage conflict, maintain resources and ensure safety. Conflicts, if handled poorly, can be pointless, disruptive or even harmful. Handled constructively, conflict can lead to growth and positive change for all involved. In Girls Inc. settings, conflicts can arise among girls, among staff, and between staff and girls, as well as involve parents, the board and the community. Knowing the sources of conflict can help staff and girls deal with conflict more effectively.
Conflict generally occurs when individuals or groups perceive threats to their needs, values, goals or resources and actively respond to those threats. Some of the conditions that contribute to conflict include: a highly competitive environment that stresses winning “at all costs,” intolerance of differences, poor communication, misuse of power by those in authority and poor resolutions skills.
Developing better conflict resolution skills is a necessary and critical step for helping girls learn to handle conflict creatively and positively. However, girls will more likely use these skills when the other conditions are reduced or eliminated. Such an atmosphere will also empower girls to take greater responsibility for their behavior and monitor themselves so that everyone can enjoy a safe, healthy and supportive environment and have access to resources while growing strong, smart and bold. Conflict management includes training that will strengthen girls’ skills in negotiation and standing up for themselves, and justice – an area in which many women still have little experience.
By the time they enter a Girls Inc. setting, girls want, need and have the capacity to be responsible for themselves and in charge of their behavior. Such self-discipline comes about through a sequence of developmental experiences during which staff guidance on behavior becomes less frequent and less necessary. The environment of trust, support and cooperation enhances girls’ ability to master important skills and manage their own behaviors as they mature.
What Girls Need to Learn Self-Discipline
- Opportunities to learn responsibility
- Opportunities to practice making decisions
- Sensible limits
- The right to lose control sometimes
- Developmentally-appropriate expectations
Girls are likely to feel more powerful and responsible for their own behavior when they:
- Feel safe and secure. Girls Inc. is an environment in which girls are safe from physical danger, and feel loved and valued.
- Have a say in programming and activities. Girls are more likely to participate harmoniously in activities that they have helped to design. Programs, as well as limits and rules, should be developed through cooperation rather than authoritative decisions.
- Understand that sensible limits exist. Girls will accept and follow guidelines that make sense to them. When limits set by adults are pointlessly strict, girls will refuse to follow them unless an adult is present to enforce them. Too few limits imply that the adults do not care, so girls push to find out what will get a reaction. Limits should be set and enforced with girls’ full participation, helping girls not only to understand the limits but also to learn to set limits for themselves.
- Know their own worth. A girl needs to figure out what she wants, learn acceptable ways to asking for it and negotiate with others to get it. Girls need to believe that they are strong and capable and have the ability to think creativity to prevent or resolve conflicts. At Girls Inc., girls can develop their strengths and gain confidence in their abilities.
- Feel accepted by the group. Girls who feel rejected by their peers often act in anti-social ways. Their misbehavior is a way of expressing angry and hurt feelings. Girls Inc. staff promote the feelings that all girls belong in the center and should develop supportive relationships.
- Have a responsible attitude toward others. When girls feel accepted and worthwhile, they are better equipped to show concern for others in the group, to understand different peoples’ points of view and be aware of behavior that others might find annoying.
Girls Inc. of SE Wisconsin has clear procedures for when handling conflict among our girls and staff, and on how to have an effective mediation.