That’s MY crayon! No, YOU broke the car! HE punched ME! It’s NOT fair! That’s MY Barbie! NO! YOU STINK!
Ahhh…the sweet (exhausting) sounds of argumentative children. May god have mercy on our nerves… When it comes to resolving conflict amongst kids, how exactly should we, as adults, approach an argumentative situation? I pose to you this tough question, fellow parents, as I watch my twins play tug-of-war with an incredibly tangle-haired Rapunzel doll. By my count, I’d say my little ladies argue with each other at least ten times a day. Then, when my eldest daughter comes home from school, suddenly there is an extra kid added to the mix. It’s like watching a children’s version of The Fight Club. Jeez!
The Importance of Teaching Conflict Resolution
Parents and guardians often think that kids should work out their arguments themselves. Sometimes, depending on the extent of the issue, and how aggressive their behaviour is, they can. However, more often than not, disagreements may escalate into something more problematic simply because children don’t have the problem-solving skills for conflict resolution. Have you ever wondered why it’s always the loudest kid in the class that wins the argument? That’s because children typically don’t know how to recognize another child’s needs, or to come to a satisfactory compromise.
I found a great piece on conflict resolution, by fellow mommy blogger Alaina Monster, over on www.momeh.ca entitled “Teaching My Girls Conflict Resolution Strategies.” It brings up some great ideas on the importance of teaching kids how to (hopefully) resolve their own arguments. As a mom of three tough cookies myself, I really appreciated her approach to this issue. What particularly struck a chord with me was how she mentioned her kids seemed to be dependant on her to resolve their disputes, and how she felt the need to teach them “tools” that would help them deal with their conflicts on their own “for their growth and [her] sanity,” as she so humorously puts it.
Ahhhh, sanity…how I vaguely remember you, my dear, old friend…
So. How can we teach our toddlers the notion of conflict resolution? Well, according to Monster’s post, she decided to utilize these strategies that were recommended specifically by a teacher:
1) Try to “talk it out” with the other child.
2) Explain how you feel about the issue to each other.
3) Suggest they share and take turns with the object causing strife.
4) Ignore the other child if they’re picking on you.
5) Ask them to stop what they’re saying/doing.
6) Step away from them to calm down.
7) Leave and go to another activity away from the argument.
8) Apologize if you are in the wrong.
9) Ask an adult for help when you don’t know what to do.
The Benefits of Having a Handy-Dandy Resolution Toolbox
Let’s face it, conflict is a normal part of life for both children and adults. Even grownups don’t always agree with each other. However, teachers have noted that children who do learn how to manage conflict seem to have better friendships, have an easier time learning in the classroom, and are altogether happier individuals.
As parents and teachers, it’s easy to jump into the middle of a heated argument and fix the problem. But, coaching children to resolve issues on their own by teaching them resolution skills is an infinitely more useful strategy chalk full of long-term benefits. Why? It’s because helping children to listen to one another, to understand someone else’s point of view, and to automatically problem-solve a situation at hand (keeping everyone’s happiness in mind) promotes fairness and equality, quashing the ‘win-lose’ mentality approach.
How to Step In When the Toolbox “Ain’t Work’in”
If you do end up having to step into the midst of a heated fight in order to resolve a problem, keep these pointers in mind:
1) Always try to set the stage for a positive win-win outcome. You can easily do so by asking for both sides of the story.
2) Have kids speak up. Give them the chance to voice their concerns and needs. Make sure to ask each child what they would like in the end, or what worries them.
3) Encourage the kids to listen to each other and to try and place themselves in the other child’s shoes. Have them imagine what it may feel like to be the other person.
4) Although it may take some extra time, it can be very helpful to have children think of different ways to solve their argument. What could be some possible solutions? Try to keep it simple, especially with younger children who may be confused by this technique.
5) Insist on win-win solutions. Help children come up with solutions that are fair to everyone involved.
6) Lastly, take the solution the children have come up with and put it into action. See how their ideas work.