Resolving conflicts is a learned skill. No one is born with the knowledge of how to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Teaching children at a young age how to communicate their thoughts and feelings will give them a head-start in life. You can start teaching these skills as young as one year old, when they start talking. As they grow and learn more words help expand their abilities in talking out their problems. Like everything else you teach your child it takes practice and repitition. Here are five easy steps to help you teach your child how to talk through a conflict.
Breathe - Take a breath. It sounds silly but if you add your frustration to the children’s argument things will not improve. This is a teachable moment. Teach them to talk about things in a calm manner. Lead by example; if you shout at them they will shout at others.
Ask questions - Ask each child what has happened. Make sure that they understand they will each have a chance to explain their side. It’s important that the children don’t feel that you have already made the decision of what the outcome will be. It's also important that each child feels heard during their time to explain. When one child is talking, do not allow the other to interject. They must wait their turn.
Point of view - Help each child see the other child’s point of view. Ask each child questions about how it makes them feel. For example if Sally and Annie are fighting over a doll. Sally said she had it first. Annie said she had it earlier when they were playing. Ask Sally how it makes her feel that Annie took the doll. Then ask Sally how she thinks Annie feels. Do the same with Annie.
Resolution - Ask the children how they think they can make it work. Offer options that they can choose from. Options may be: taking turns, finding a similar toy, or just putting the toy away for now. Once you have done this a couple of times the children will be able to give valid options of their own.
Praise – This is very important. Give them ownership of the decision. Use words to express how they talked to each other to come to an agreement on a solution. Praise them for their ideas and how well they talked out the problem. Encourage them to talk things out on their own next time.
Every child wants to be praised and recognized for how ‘big’ they are. Encourage children to help each other and be understanding of where the other person is coming from. Helping children understand how to talk through situations with their peers will be a lifelong skill.
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