Conflict is part of life. As many of us are trapped inside, tiffs are bound to happen. Teaching children how to effectively manage conflict will prepare them for positive relationships throughout their lives.
The knowledge also helps create harmony within the home. Teaching conflict management skills can help them become thoughtful problem solvers and maintain friendships and relationships even when conflicts arise.
Modeling empathy when your child is in conflict will help him feel heard and understood and will demonstrate how to communicate with others. It will teach him to take into consideration the perspective of others and to help others feel understood. Modeling, identifying and expressing your own feelings will help him learn to talk about his in a calm way.
Model and teach active listening: Look at the speaker with full attention. Maintain eye contact. Encourage the speaker to continue speaking with small verbal comments like “yes”, and “uh huh.” Reflect back what you heard, with statements such as, “what I am hearing is…”
Act out conflict management possibilities. This helps a child practice the skills and develop confidence to actually use them when needed. Set rules such as no name calling, no shouting, no inappropriate gestures.
Use “I” Statements
“I” statements help clarify how a conflict has affected the speaker without blaming the listener. An “I” statement focuses on the feelings and thoughts of the speaker rather than the characteristics or behaviors of the speaker. The components of an “I” statement are as follows:
Can you please_
Support children in asking themselves the following questions: Is this a little problem? Will it really affect the rest of my day, or week, or can I let it go? Is this something I need to address because it will bother me if it does not get resolved? Or is this a major deal where an adult needs to get involved?
Teach children to communicate regret, responsibility and remedy through their apology. Apologies should not just be an empty “I’m sorry”, but should acknowledge what was done and discuss how one will work to fix the situation.
Offer visual charts of options to resolving a conflict.
1. A Problem Solving Wheel which
includes choices to utilize during conflict such as walk away, talk it out, use an “I” message, go to another activity, tell the person to stop, take turns and get an adult.
2. A Stoplight, where the red part says “take a deep breath and picture something calming.” The yellow part says “think about the problem. Can it be handled independently or is an adult needed?” The green part says “pick a strategy and attempt it.” Encourage children to visualize or look at this stoplight during a conflict and go from red to yellow to green in their mind and follow the steps.
3. Popsicle Sticks. Put strategies on a popsicle stick and keep it in a jar. When conflicts arise, take out the options from the jar and practice.
4. Calm Down Chart. Have a key ring, chart or wheel of different options to use to calm down, such as taking deep breaths, counting to 10 and exercising or getting a drink of water.
Graziella Simonetti is a Parenting Coach with Parenting Pals (firstname.lastname@example.org) and works as an Early Childhood Social Worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an Advanced Certificate in Parent Education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed Parenting Educator.