Every day across the country, teachers and parents struggle with children who are angry, explosive, and aggressive. Improving communication can make a significant difference in relationships and alleviate violence, according to John Cunningham, an expert who will speak at The Waldorf School of Princeton in October.

Cunningham, who has extensive background in nonviolent communication techniques, will speak on Friday, Oct. 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. His discussion, “Developing the Power of Compassionate Communication,” will focus on creating healthy relationships through improved communication and laying the groundwork for establishing an environment where children can avoid aggressive behavior. The cost is $10 for the Friday night seminar and $35 for the Saturday workshop.

“John Cunningham trained under Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Nonnviolent Communication,” explained Jill Miller, a Waldorf School parent and member of its Social Pathways program. “Mr. Cunningham’s talk is a component of the school’s larger Social Pathways program in which students are guided in a positive way at times of conflict. The result is children who can communicate clearly about their needs and express how these needs are being met.”

Cunningham will show participants how to recognize when they are expressing blame, judgment or criticism instead of positive communication. Dr. Rosenberg calls this a “tragic expression of unmet needs.”

The Waldorf School is sponsoring this program in response to New Jersey’s anti-bullying initiatives. The school is approaching the problem from a fresh perspective: Encouraging students to identify and express what they need so that others can hear and respond positively, thereby transforming disconnection into deepened reconnection.

“Our Social Pathways group of faculty and parents recognize conflict as a normal part of life and learning,” explained Miller. see it an opportunity to find out what stands behind a person’s actions and to find a win/win solution, rather than to seek out the aggressive child and discipline him or her. It’s part of our school’s ongoing dialogue about social issues and challenges.”

According to Miller, sharpening listening skills, as well as verbal communication, helps people develop a greater capacity for empathy. Trained parents and faculty have created a network and ongoing practice group to help parents attain a higher level of communication to support their children.

The Waldorf School of Princeton, an independent educational movement of over 900 Rudolf Steiner schools worldwide, is dedicated to recognizing the unique spirit of each child. Its mission states that through a rich curriculum integrating the academic, the artistic and the practical, children gain self-knowledge to meet the world by awakening within them warmth of heart, clarity of thought and strength of purpose.

“Learning to deal with difficult people is a life-long skill,” Miller added. “Waldorf education recognizes that developing skills for a strong social life is as important as strong academics.”

To register, visit www.princetonwaldorf.org, call 609-466-1970 x55, or email mhirsch@princetonwaldorf.org.

The Waldorf School of Princeton, 1062 Cherry Hill Rd. Princeton. 609-466-1970.

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