A. Your timing is excellent. My daughter, Mary, and I have just decided to write a book on how to use the principles taught in Positive Discipline in a college setting—or any setting where people share living space. As you have learned, just because people are old enough to go to college isn't a guarantee that they have learned the skills and attitudes for treating people with dignity and respect. Nor does it mean they have the skills for problem-solving. These skills and attitudes have to be learned and practiced.
I would suggest you start having resident family meetings.You can follow the same guidelines taught in the family meeting chapter in Positive Discipline. It is amazing what can happen when people learn to give and receive compliments, to share their feelings in respectful ways, and to look at problems as opportunities to find respectful solutions.
You are right on to sense that tightening the rules will only cause resentment and retaliation. Punishment doesn't work any better with college-age people than with children. Instead invite the residents to be involved in brainstorming/problem-solving meetings. At the first meeting introduce the idea of an agenda. This can be a sheet of paper on a bulletin board in a common area. Invite anyone who has a concern, irritation, or any kind of problem to list it on the agenda. When introducing the idea of resident meetings, it is important to stress that the whole group will brainstorm as many possible solutions as they can think of. Then the group will choose the one that seems the most workable and respectful to all concerned. Stress that the purpose is to solve problems—not to place blame. No put downs will be allowed.
The first meeting would also be a good time to introduce compliments. Discuss how skilled people are at giving and receiving criticism, and how unskilled most people are at giving and receiving compliments.One way to start this process is to ask everyone to draw a name from a hat.Their assignment will be to notice something in the next week that they can acknowledge about the person whose name they have drawn. These compliments and/or acknowledgments should not include what people wear or how they fix their hair.They should be about what people DO that is helpful to others, or accomplishments they have worked hard to achieve.Another resource that would help you, if you choose to try resident meetings, is Positive Discipline in the Classroom. All of the activities that teach the Eight Building Blocks for Effective Class Meetings could easily be adapted to your group. If your group is willing, I would love to hear from you about how it goes. Perhaps you could provide specific examples that I could put in our book.