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Conflict Resolution Being Taught In 4-H
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Society breaks down when people can't get along, but one 4-H program is stepping in to help youth learn to keep their cool.
Dr. Susan Holder, state 4-H leader with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said it is vital that today's youth learn to resolve conflict well.
"As juvenile crime rates rise, we see a great need for youth to learn better ways to handle their anger," Holder said. "Much youth violence could be prevented if young people were taught peaceful ways to resolve their problems."
Mississippi's 4-H leaders offer a program called Talking with TJ that helps youth learn leadership and conflict resolution skills. Six lessons in each topic area teach these important lessons and reinforce them with activities.
"This program helps diffuse kids' anger and helps young people learn different ways to deal with relationships and conflict," Holder said. "We hope that by participating in this program, Mississippi youth will learn more socially acceptable ways to function in society."
Martha Jackson, 4-H youth agent in Bolivar County, said the program is geared for fourth through sixth graders, but can be modified to work with any age.
"The teamwork lessons teach youth how to make plans, work together and share a team spirit," Jackson said. "The conflict resolution series teaches them to keep their cool, take a new look and say the right things."
Jackson said many children have trouble controlling their anger, but this 4-H program helps them to see problems from a different perspective.
"The conflict resolution lessons get to the meat of the problem, and teaches them there are different ways to solve a problem," Jackson said. "It teaches youth to calm down, work through their problems and walk away instead of fighting."
Jackson began teaching these classes in January in Bolivar County Schools. Since she began teaching the program in Washington County in 1996, about 2,500 youth have learned about teamwork and conflict resolution from her. At the end of September, she began teaching it in the high school alternative school and two other Bolivar County schools.
"Since some character education has been mandated, the Talking with TJ program fits right into the curriculum," Jackson said.
The program has done well and the youth have enjoyed it, but the lessons learned must be reinforced over time, she said.
"The most important thing I see with this program is the change in the kids' attitudes," Jackson said. "The teachers constantly reinforce these principles, and the students are getting along better and working well together."