The Conflict Cycle
In the conflict cycle, a student's negative self-concept or irrational beliefs are triggered by a stressful incident or event. This event triggers thoughts and feelings in the student which then result in observable negative behaviors. Adults and peers observe this behavior and in turn react to it, creating a further stressful event and reinforcing the student's negative beliefs.
Conflict cycles frequently start with a small incident that escalate through subsequent cycles. Unchecked, these repeated cycles rapidly build on each other and may result in emotional flooding, outbursts or violence.
Understanding the conflict cycle has two important benefits. First, adults more readily recognize conflict cycles when they occur, and they can take steps to break the cycle by managing their own reactions and behaviors, thus not making the situation worse. Second, adults can help students understand how they become trapped in the conflict cycle and can teach students to self-manage for better outcomes.
Stress is defined as an incident which threatens a student's well-being or state of comfort and/or triggers a student's irrational beliefs. Stress may be developmental, psychological, or physical, or the simple reality of things going wrong. Such stress often produces feelings such as anger or sadness or fear. Students who become flooded with such feelings may react by striking out, withdrawing or running away, or they may simply deny the existence of the feelings at all. Helping children identify feelings and the behaviors and consequences that come from them is an important component in breaking the conflict cycle.