Conflict Spiral – Letting children know we can listen

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen”

Ernest Hemingway

I have worked with many children over the years who felt that adults do not listen to them. Children in my old PRU, children in my mainstream posts and children who I worked with on outreach. “What’s the point… they don’t even listen anyways!” was a usual response I got. Now, I have written a blog post on scripted language which addresses this in one sense (The ‘you talk to me, I will listen’ script). Staff do spend time sitting and listening… or so they think. Many staff spend time hearing children and this is usually characterised by the member of staff responding with something like “I understand all of that but you shouldn’t have done x, y or z.”

So, how can you be a better listener? How can you fill the void of desperation from within the child and replace it with belief… belief from the child that you will listen to them? It is something called the conflict spiral.

Where does it come from?

I was first introduced to the conflict spiral on my Team Teach Training 4 years ago.

conflict spiral image


Now it basically says that we can take any experience – negative or positive and place it onto the conflict spiral. Let’s take a positive one. If children are sitting smartly during your input (positive experience) this will shape the way you feel and make you feel happy (feelings). This in turn will drive positive behaviours and you may speak in a kind voice / praise more/ have positive body language (behaviours) which result in positive reactions (in this case) from the staff.

It looks a bit like this – positive behaviours > shape positive feelings > which drive positive behaviours > which result in positive reactions.

And on the flipside, the children talk during your input which makes you feel annoyed/angry/frustrated and these feelings drive your behaviour and you raise your voice / apply a sanction etc. The reaction you offer is negative and there is a potential to be a conflict between you and the child. Get it?

So what have we done in our school?

We have flipped this on its head and rather than it being for adults, we have begun to use it for the children as a scaffold. I created a document for our staff which you are to have if you wish (conflict spiral). We have one in every classroom and it is enlarged to A3 and laminated. When there is an incident, we are beginning to use the conflict spiral (as mentioned in a previous post… it is still early days in my new school) to help the children to feel listened to as opposed to just hearing them. This is how it goes (Click the link so you can see the document)

It is extremely powerful if done consistently over a period of time. You do it after an incident. There are 4 areas, experience, feelings, behaviour and conflict.

1. You ask the child what happened to them and write it in the experience box.

2. Then you ask them how it made them feel – write it in feelings

3. Next, ask them what they did and write it in behaviour. You then say “so you did (behaviour) because you felt (feelings)”

4. You then write the consequence of the behaviour in conflict (maybe they were told off or sent inside by someone).


5. After this, you rub out the top two, and plan for a better way. You fill in behaviour with what they would do differently next time.

6. Finally you fill in the conflict, and write the positive consequence in (it might be that you write ‘no conflict’


What this does is it stops the old “Why did you punch Tony?” and a response of “because he spat at me!” Let’s be honest, you can’t argue with it really. However, if you use the conflict spiral to link a feeling to the behaviour and the child says that he was angry because Tony  spat at him, you can now say “So you hit Tony because you felt angry?” and in my experience, they will always say yes. You have now marked the moment and you can say “Well, the next time you feel angry… what could you do to stop the conflict from happening?” Voilà. By the end of it, the child will feel listened to and you have appealed to their desperation. They will now have faith the you will restore justice. The more this is done, the quicker it becomes and if you use any of the scripts from one of my previous posts, you will find yourself beginning to develop a script for this and saying the same thing everytime.

Next step for me?

After introducing this to some new starters in September and some staff who missed it in July, I will be focussing on developing the use of this throughout the school.

After that, I will be using my Y5 class as guinea pigs and will be looking to spend time training and giving responsibility to a few of them as ‘monitors’ and hopefully they will be able to sort playground issues etc in a time-limited fashion. That is the aim and it will truly allow the children to feel listened to… not just by the adults, but by each other.




Posted on August 11, 2014, in behaviour, Education, pru. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


Simple made easy! psychology love feeling emotion thought behaviour success strategy


Zest for Learning... into the rainforest of teaching and school leadership

Year 4 Teacher

recently qualified teacher, expressing the battles and queries of teaching!

Special Needs Teaching and Education

Inclusive teaching, education, and resources for Autism.

All Ears

An Education Blog by @PositivTeacha

Ramblings of a Teacher

With not even a hint of cohesion between posts


Pastoral practices in school

The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy

My world, its ups and downs

Miss B's Learning Journey

Thoughts, experience, reflections, growing...

Suzie Speaks

The Adventures Of a Thirty-Something Life


A great site

Psych Circus

Enjoy, Learn, and Erase Stigma!

visual recall

teaching in a special school

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture


Come and see what we've been up to in Class 4L!

Disappointed Idealist

Ranting from the chalkface

%d bloggers like this: