As children grow older and interact more with peers, conflicts inevitably arise. All kids will experience disputes and arguments at some point. While these situations can be frustrating and upsetting, they also present valuable opportunities to develop important social-emotional skills if handled constructively. This article will discuss techniques parents and teachers can use to teach kids how to resolve conflicts thoughtfully.
Why Conflict Resolution Skills Matter
Disagreements are a natural part of relationships. Learning positive strategies to address them equips kids with abilities that will serve them throughout life.
Children who can successfully resolve conflicts are more likely to have better mental health, social competence, and academic performance. When kids have the tools to solve disputes peacefully, they gain confidence in navigating challenging situations independently.
Schools that actively foster conflict resolution skills see improved overall environments with less bullying. Families also often experience more harmony when children can settle squabbles themselves.
Teaching kids how to maturely resolve conflicts helps them build better relationships as children. This establishes patterns for managing disagreements as adults.
Stay Calm and Model Good Communication
Before jumping into specific conflict resolution techniques, the most vital strategy is remaining calm.
When tensions run high, kids and parents alike easily get caught up in emotions like anger, frustration, or defensiveness.
Taking a deep breath and keeping a level head sets the tone for thoughtful discussion instead of escalating the situation.
Speak in a measured, respectful voice and ask your child to talk the issue through with you.
Model listening without interruption and considering their perspective.
Your level-headed presence demonstrates how to have a constructive conversation even during disagreements.
Common Conflict Triggers and Prevention Strategies Understanding what situations
Understanding what situations commonly trigger conflicts can help avoid or address them proactively. Some frequent sources of disputes for kids include:
- Sharing toys or belongings – Teach taking turns and establish clear ownership rules.
- Screen time limits – Set consistent media guidelines and explain reasons for restraint.
- Chores or getting ready on time – Post checklists and give reminders to start early.
- Homework help – Designate workspaces and independent reading times.
- Friends or siblings not getting along – Offer to mediate and suggest compromises.
Preventing conflicts might not always be possible. However, expecting and mitigating common triggers helps minimize daily squabbles.
Steps for Resolving Disputes
When disagreements do occur, walk kids through this step-by-step process to achieve constructive resolutions:
- Define the problem – Have each child explain their view of the conflict without assigning blame. Ask clarifying questions to understand all perspectives.
- Brainstorm solutions together – Encourage kids to generate a few ideas without evaluating them initially. Quantities breed creativity.
- When kids choose not to responsibly resolve conflicts, parents and teachers should let them experience natural consequences instead of arbitrary punishments.
- Choose the best solution – Ask your child’s opinion on which resolution seems fairest and most likely to succeed.
- Implement the plan – Determine appropriate actions and follow through cooperatively. Praise kids for working as a team.
- Check back later – Touch base to evaluate how the solution is holding up. Tweak the approach if needed and discuss takeaways.
Following these six basic steps equips children with a template for rationally working through disagreements. Adjust questions and facilitate age-appropriately. Most importantly, remain patient and let kids practice actively resolving issues themselves. Intervene only when necessary.
Over time, they will progressively need less involvement in developing constructive compromises.
Teach Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness
A common assumption is that standing up for oneself requires aggressiveness.
However, behaving forcefully or rudely generally damages relationships and escalates conflicts rather than resolving them.
Kids often mimic the aggressive arguing and yelling they may see adults model. Instead, teach assertiveness as the ability to calmly state one’s needs and limits while respecting others’ perspectives.
Children learn that quiet confidence best achieves desired outcomes without aggression. Have kids rehearse saying phrases like “I don’t like when you do that – please stop,” or “I would prefer if you asked first.”
Praise reasonable self-advocacy. With your guidance, kids discover they can establish boundaries without attacking others.
Use Natural Consequences and “I Messages”
When kids choose not to responsibly resolve conflicts, parents and teachers should let them experience natural consequences instead of arbitrary punishments.
If a child refuses to compromise on what game to play next and angrily disrupts another child’s activity, calmly explain they cannot participate now if they are unable to control their behavior.
Avoid lecturing or disciplining. Let the sadness of missing out motivate better choices, rather than ineffective penalties.
Additionally, guide kids to express their frustration using “I message” rather than accusing others. For example, have them say “I feel very angry when you won’t share because then I can’t have a turn.”
Contrast that with attacking the other child: “You are so selfish. You always hog all the toys.” I messages help diffuse conflicts by opening productive dialogue about each person’s underlying thoughts and needs.
See Disagreements as Learning Opportunities
Rather than labeling disputes as inherently bad, reframe them as meaningful chances to practice important life skills.
Treat resolving conflicts as no different than learning math, music, or sports. Mistakes will happen during the process of growth.
Be patient in directly teaching components like listening, compromise, and managing emotions. Praise each small step kids take in handling tensions constructively. Any progress – however minimal – deserves encouragement to motivate ongoing improvement.
Reframing conflicts as learning opportunities make the hard work feel more positive and hopeful.
Involve Kids in Creating Guidelines
Encourage personal investment in conflict resolution by engaging kids in establishing guidelines. Solicit their ideas about what fair fighting policies should include.
Common suggestions are no hitting, no yelling hurtful words, no interrupting, and no breaking belongings.
Have children help write and decorate posters listing classroom or household rules.
Revisit these mutual agreements as needed when disputes emerge. Invite kids to evaluate if someone violated the guidelines and determine appropriate amends. Ideally, guide them toward remedies that make relationships better rather than exact punishments. The goal is restoring harmony, not penalizing errors.
When kids participate in creating policies, they understand the reasons behind them and feel accountable for sustaining community standards.
Use Role Playing for Practice
Role-playing is a highly effective technique for practicing conflict resolution.
Demonstrate positive and negative examples first to establish expectations. Next, assign imagined scenarios or relay real-life disputes for kids to act out.
Guide them to rotate positions, sometimes portraying themselves and sometimes the other parties.
Pause the simulations at key moments to discuss alternatives and constructive choices. Allow kids to experiment with language and strategies in the safety of pretense.
The more situations they rehearse, the more adept children become in applying compromise techniques by themselves.
Keep the tone light to avoid embarrassment. Role-playing reduces tensions around real conflicts by offering low-stakes opportunities to build concrete habits.
Ask “Can We Solve This Together?”
A simple yet powerful question for defusing conflicts is, “Can we solve this together?” This sends reassuring signals about your faith in collaboration and desire for mutual understanding.
Such an invitation encourages both parties to drop rigid assumptions of correct positions and see resolutions as shared responsibilities.
Remind kids that compromise requires flexibility from everyone involved. Agreeing to work jointly toward equitable solutions, even if parties initially disagree on methodologies, establishes the cooperative tone necessary for developing win-win outcomes.
This question reorients nasty disputes into more optimistic problems to tackle as a team. It aligns intentions around partnership for constructing creative answers, rather than defiant debates over narrow demands.
Resources for Further Reading
Several excellent books offer more detailed guidance on fostering kids’ conflict resolution:
- “The Peaceful Child” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith provides compassionate and respectful parenting advice for handling disputes.
- “The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book” by Barbara Mitchell delivers specific scripts kids can practice.
- Educators will find useful strategies tailored for schools in “Don’t Feed the Monster on Tuesdays” by Laurie Zelinger.
Seeking professional counseling may benefit children struggling with verbal or physical aggression. Discuss your concerns and intervention options with your children’s doctor. They can refer an appropriate child psychologist or therapist if needed.
In closing, remember guiding kids through disagreements presents growth opportunities, not fixed failings.
With consistent support, they gain confidence in navigating between people’s challenges. Model optimism and patience.
Resolving smaller conflicts builds children’s communication abilities. This tremendously equips them to manage life’s bigger conflicts in the future.
Reach out today to start those lessons or schedule a coaching consultation.
Discover positive techniques tailored to your family’s unique needs. Dr. Benejam would be happy to discuss your situation in a consultation.
Call now to empower your kids with social-emotional abilities that benefit them lifelong.