Contributed by Dr. Joshua Weiss, Director of the MS in Leadership and Negotiation program
The field of leadership, negotiation, and dealing with conflict is nothing new. Nor is seeking useful and creative ways to teach children about these important realms. Curiously however, purposeful storytelling for conveying these lessons has received less attention than one would imagine. That is, until now.
The Director of the MS in Leadership and Negotiation program at Bay Path University, Dr. Joshua Weiss, and his co-author, Mr. Gregg Relyea Esq., have recently published a book rich in both story and subtle content to help children 6 to 10 years old to find their way out of difficult problems through creative thinking and problem solving. Using tried and tested techniques, Weiss and Relyea, in Trouble at the Watering Hole: The Adventures of Emo and Chickie weave together a story that will keep children engaged, while helping their parents and teachers to exhibit fundamental skills and approaches to negotiation and dealing with conflict.
Here is how Dr. Weiss describes the book, the power of story, and what he and his co-author are hoping to accomplish in writing this tale.
As the title suggests, there is trouble at the watering hole. For quite some time there has been a conflict brewing between animals in the forest over who owns the watering hole and who gets to use it when they want. After a lot of fighting and digging in, the heroes of the story, Emo – a baby bear, and Chickie – a red breasted robin, intercede and help the conflicting animals to stop, think, and really understand what is happening. When they are able to get them to do that, a creative solution to the seemingly unsolvable problem emerges.
What is different about this book is the story. Stories are some of the most powerful ways to convey lessons to children and really have them retain those lessons over time. I remember a number of stories from my childhood and the lessons that were embedded in them. From Curious George to all the works by Dr. Seuss. Human beings use stories – perhaps more than anything else – to share and teach lessons. Why would negotiation and dealing with conflict be any different?
The intention behind the book is that it also be interactive. As we were developing the book I would take it to my children’s classes and read it as part of a mystery reader program. I discovered that if I offered to have the children act out the different characters they would stay very engaged in the story. After we read the book, and they played out these roles, we would discuss what they learned. Statements such as, “Sometimes you need to cool down to deal with things the right way like the red deer did,” “I didn’t think the animals would be able to work out the problem but they did. That was cool,” or “When Emo and Chickie got them to listen to each other they really could figure out the problem.” Those statements told us we were on to something.
The story also caught the eye of a likely, but somewhat unusual figure. Relyea and I had a hunch that the Dalai Lama might have an interest. So, on a whim, we sent him a copy of the book and asked for an endorsement. Here is what he stated, which is included in the book endorsement, “The only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences in today's world is through dialogue in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation. Dialogue, through which we learn to listen to other points of view, is the way to build greater trust and transparency, and is the foundation of lasting friendship. Everyone from small children up to political leaders have to understand that violence and conflict are counterproductive, that they are not a realistic way to solve our problems.
This book makes a valuable contribution to such educational efforts by imagining how animals deal with trouble round the watering hole. It is a vivid scene that children will easily understand. I congratulate the authors for their keen appreciation of the importance of finding ways to educate children so they grow up learning not to lash out at the first sign of conflict, but to approach problems more reasonably. Genuine peace and reconciliation, whether in relation to ourselves or in relation to others, comes about through taking an understanding, respectful and non-violent approach to the challenges we face.”
We hope that the Dalai Lama’s words come true and that this book makes a useful contribution toward those lofty goals.
Click here to order the book on Amazon.