Allies was created with the goal to help kids solve problems peacefully and respectfully. Conflict is a part of life. It’s a natural and even healthy part of relationships. So teaching and modeling ways to resolve conflict assertively with empathy and compassion is important for children.
Now that’s a good sandwich
We learn and practice what Peaceful Schools International calls the Goodwill Sandwich. We begin by reading the story of Sam and the Goodwill Sandwich. (This link is a pdf that you can print out at home and share with your child).
In this story Sam’s friend, Lucas, makes fun of his sweater in front of a bunch of kids and they all laugh. Sam is hurt and confused because Lucas is his close friend. He goes home and his dad teaches him how to talk to his friend by making a Goodwill Sandwich.
Sam’s dad and Sam talk through some ideas about Lucas’s intentions. Sam guesses that Lucas may have made fun of Sam’s sweater because he likes to make people laugh – not that he was intentionally trying to hurt Sam.
This is what it looks like in Sam’s story:
- Top Layer: Lucas, I know that the class really likes your jokes.
- Filling: It really hurt my feelings when everyone laughed at my sweater during recess yesterday.
- Bottom Layer: Is there any way for you to make everyone laugh without making fun of me?
Let’s examine how you and your child might use this sandwich layer by layer.
First Layer – An Empathetic Perspective
The top piece of bread (the first step) is a change in perspective. Often, this is the most difficult step to model and teach. It requires a lot of practice – for everyone. When emotions are running high, it’s hard to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
How it works
Since the Goodwill Sandwich is often ‘served’ after the original event, the first layer is an icebreaker. The empathetic perspective acts as a buffer between the incident or stimulus and the response.
What it does
It gives you or your child a way into the conversation that doesn’t put the other person/recipient on the defensive. It’s an opportunity to remind the other person, providing context for the next layer of the sandwich.
Some questions to help you and your child change perspective:
- Was it on purpose?
- Was is rude or mean? Rude is thoughtless. Mean is intentional.
- What might the other person be feeling or wanting?
- What might’ve caused them to do or say what they did?
The Filling Second Layer – The Desired Change
The second step the filling of the sandwich is what you are feeling or wanting.
The Third Layer – Cooperative Solution(s)
The bottom piece of bread is suggesting a way to solve the problem in a way that feels good for both involved.
My current Allies group has created a skit with a conflict between two friends. They came up with a Goodwill Sandwich to solve the problem. We plan to perform this skit to the fourth grade classes at our school and teach them how to make Goodwill Sandwiches.
What I love about this story is that demonstrates for kids and adults that when you have a conflict with your friend you can go home, talk to an adult, work together to solve the problem, practice it, and then find a good time to talk to your friend. It is not reasonable, or even recommended, that we can solve our problems in the moment. It takes time and maybe some help to sort out complicated feelings and situations. Allies understand this because they have learned about how when we are calm, we can access the prefrontal cortex, or the upstairs brain, to solve problems.
The Goodwill Sandwich is not used in bullying situations, where there is an imbalance of power. Peaceful Schools International has different story, Sam Takes a Stand, and shows a way to solve such problems.
The Goodwill Sandwich is also a great tool for giving constructive feedback and criticism, particularly when offering suggestions on creative work or when coaching a player.