Resolving Conflict Creatively “Down by the Riverside”

Resolving Confilct Creatively with Classroom LessonsBuilding community is not easy. Building anything is not easy. You do not just have a plan and everything goes smoothly from there. You face challenges and problems, struggles and conflict. Luckily, there are many respectful ways to resolve conflict and teaching those skills is what our third theme in Don’t Laugh at Me is all about.

The first step is to make a commitment to resolve conflict peacefully, as heated as the conflict may be. Adults have not always done such a great job at resolving conflict in a peaceful manner, but at Operation Respect it is our fervent hope that children may lead the way. It is not an easy thing to do and it takes lots of practice, so learning these skills as early as possible facilitates a lifetime of stronger relationships.

We start this section of the curriculum with the theme song, “Down by the Riverside” which says, “I ain’t gonna study war no more.” It is a great lyric to help young people commit to peaceful, rather than aggressive, resolution. It is also worth it to take a look at the heroic history of the song and we love this Playing for Change video too!

Assertive Versus Aggressive

In one of our activities for the Respect for All training we have been doing in New York City for years, we make the distinction between Aggressive, Assertive, and Passive or Submissive. We suggest that aggressive is mean; assertive is strong; and passive and submissive are weak. The sweet spot is assertiveness. This is a really important clarification for children who may think they have to fight to be strong. We want them to understand that we are not asking them to avoid conflict or run from it, but to focus on the resolution and to act with respect and compassion for those who have different opinions.

This lesson also provides a terrific opportunity to explore the power of music to convey “coded” messages and tell stories about common experiences. Check out the curricular connections tab for some recommendations of extensions and ways to integrate this concept with your social studies, music, and English/Language Arts standards.

It is our hope that the theme songs, Don’t Laugh at Me, This Little Light of Mine, Down by the Riverside, and If I Had a Hammer, become an integral part of the culture of your classroom and school.

We would love to feature teachers in classrooms and music teachers in schools where music is an integral part of creating a positive school climate and culture and we’d be happy to connect with you to support your doing it. Please send us a message at or post on our Facebook page so that we can learn more about what you are doing.

Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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