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5 Conflict Resolution Skills Your Child Should Learn
Conflict is a normal part of the human experience. As adults, it is important to remember that the skills we use to solve conflict were learned skills; in other words, it required a patient adult investing the time to guide us through productive resolution strategies. This same patience is required for our children! As much as we would like for it to be true, children are not automatically born with the ability to self-regulate and handle conflict with friends or family members. These skills must be taught and practiced. Here are five conflict resolution strategies and activities you can use to guide your child through their development of social skills!
- Use guiding questions as your child resolves his or her conflict.
Instead of automatically providing your child with the solution as soon as a problem arises, use guiding questions so that they are able to talk through what is bothering them. For example, instead of saying, “Tell the other person you are sorry,” you can lead them to the answer by asking, “What happened? What do you think the other child was trying to say or do? How could this have been handled more productively?” While this gives your child room to develop a solution with your help, it also teaches them reflection strategies they can use on their own.
- Provide your child with a vast “feelings” vocabulary.
Children are not born with the ability to verbally express how they feel, especially in times of conflict. Instead, their frustration is often displayed through negative action or displaced, angry words. Guiding your child through talking about the emotions they feel and why they feel that way could alleviate some of the stress of not being able to adequately express themselves. If you work with children, not necessarily your own, you could display various “feeling” words. When conflict arises, have the children choose the emotion that best describes them in that moment and discuss possible solutions.
- Introduce your child to breathing and/or counting exercises.
“Count to 10 before you react” are magical words! As we know, the first reaction in moments of dissension may not be the most productive one. Teaching your child to take a moment to not only count or breathe, but also plan their next move/words, saves them from negative confrontation. It can be something as simple as separating yourself from the problem and taking five deep breaths before you return. Deep breathing literally relieves their bodies from the tension that forms during conflict. There are kid-friendly resources, such as www.gonoodle.com, that offer cartoon character-based breathing techniques and yoga (another restorative method) videos. Check that out!
- Try out role-play.
Role-play is especially helpful in group settings and is more of a proactive conflict resolution strategy than a reactive one. However, it is just as productive. One way to implement role play is by asking the child(ren) to explain a person-to-person conflict that they have faced in the past. Then, have students act out how they shouldn’t handle the situation. After the students have role-played, ask the group to name ways the situation could have been resolved more positively. Finally, have the role-playing students act again using the conflict resolution strategies the group discussed. Even if a group is not available, this is possible and just as helpful with you and your child.
- Have your child listen and paraphrase what they feel the other person is saying.
A crucial part of conflict resolution is the ability to actively listen, understand what the other person is feeling or saying, then come to a solution or compromise. As we know, children are not experts on resolution, so it is necessary to guide them through this process. One effective way to do this is by having the child practice listening to the other person involved. After they have listened, ask them to paraphrase what they heard the other person saying. This develops the ability to 1) Become an active listener in order to understand, and 2) Be able to comprehend how the other person is feeling. Listening, combined with empathy, lays the ground for the children to be able to come to a solution that pleases them both.
Written by: Drew Kodelja, Conflict Resolution & Youth Development Program Director at Community Development YMCA
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