Teaching children conflict resolution

Even small conflicts between children can easy spiral out of control. Brent Elliott from The Children’s Workshop shares the following helpful advice for parents to help handle conflict.

  • Let the children cool off: This teaches the children that sometimes cooling off and letting emotions fade a bit can help clear your head and make sense of the situation. This is not necessarily taking the children out of the situation, but more using terms like, “let’s both take a few deep breaths to calm down, then we can talk about it.” This may also give you, the parent, a chance to cool down as well.

  • Allow the children to speak in turns and honestly: We use a system where each child gets a turn to speak about what is bothering them. We teach them that “I” messages about how they feel are more effective than blaming others. You can use something to signify whose turn it is to speak with a small item that the child holds when it is their turn to speak. If a child begins to interrupt the other while speaking, we calmly stop them and tell them they will have their turn to speak when they have the item. This really teaches the children to speak assertively, honestly, and with kind words. Also, this method teaches them to face the problem head-on by talking about it right away.
  • Promote solution-finding: All too often, as adults, we want to find the quick solution to a conflict between children and we do not take the time to use these opportunities to allow them to figure out a solution on their own. Often, when we are dealing with a conflict in our classrooms, we involve the children in the conflict to find a resolution. If we are dealing with a conflict between two children about one not wanting to play with another, we may ask each side about what they think their solution should be. This gives them a chance to solve their own issue and take ownership and pride that they helped figure it out.

As educators or parents, we should always take a conflict as a chance for a teachable moment. There are many lessons that can be taught when dealing with conflict that can turn into lifelong skills. This is an opportunity for the children to learn how to become effective problem solvers and it gives them a chance to take responsibility and deal directly with others when they are upset. Teaching them these skills now will only help them with more complex problems as they get older.

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