I have a niece, Zoey, who is eighteen months old, and I was recently looking at children’s books to get her. I always loved when my mom would read to me as a kid especially books where there was a lesson to be learned. I started thinking about books that would be appropriate for teaching Zoey about conflict, being that I am a conflict intervenor. After doing some research, I found the perfect story in one of Dr. Seuss’s collections titled, “The Zax.”
The story is about a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax who come to the same spot on their journey and bump into one another. Neither one is willing to step out of the other’s way as they both have an abundance of pride, so they stay unmoved for days, months, even years. The conclusion of the story explains that while the Zax’s refused to budge the world continued, and eventually a highway was built around them.
How is the story of the Zax’s a good way to teach children and even adults about conflict resolution?
- It demonstrates a conflict without a resolution. As neither Zax would agree to move, they remained stuck in the same spot missing the developing world around them. How many times have we witnessed a fight between two people where both parties refused to budge on their position? What do those two individuals end up missing out on because of their pride?
- It’s a way to discuss negotiation and compromise. What did the Zax’s ultimately want? The North-Going Zax wanted to go North while the South-Going Zax wanted to go South. They both felt the other should move out of their way so that they could go forth. However, if they had discussed their problem instead of forcefully asking the other to move, they could have worked out a compromise that both parties would have found met their needs.
- It’s an excellent lesson in attacking the problem not that person. The Zax’s attack one another by saying things like, “YOU are blocking my path, get out of my way.” They could have instead looked at the problem itself and how they could fix it rather than attacking one another.
- It teaches conflict escalation. How did the Zax’s make the problem worse? The North-Going Zax started, “I never,” he said, “take a step to one side. And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways. If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!” The South-Going Zax countered that he could stay fifty-nine years at that point both were trying to save face to prove a point.
Teaching children how to manage conflicts constructively I believe is the best way to ensure a more peaceful world in the future. Children’s literature can be a helpful resource in conveying skills and lessons on conflict resolution. What other books would you recommend for teaching conflict resolution? Let me know.
Have a Good Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Guest Blogger / Co-Host