“He’s not following the rules! He’s a cheater!”
“She is being mean to me and my friends. She won’t include us in her club.”
“She took my markers and lost them. Now I don’t have any.”
Some days it feels like all we do as educators and parents is solve conflicts between kids. Maybe you even feel like you’ve tried everything and you are at the end of your rope. “Why can’t kids just get along?” we wonder. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting.
Here are a few ideas but get ready… most of them mean changing your mindset as well as your strategies.
- Re-frame conflict as opportunity instead of a battle of the wills- As a parent, I used to actually thank my children when they were having a disagreement. Sounds crazy I know, (and they’d look at me like I had lost my mind) but I’d explain that life is full of conflict and it’s good that you can learn to solve conflicts as kids. It’s true of course; learning to solve conflicts is a necessary life skill.
- Create conflict rules-For example: no blaming, no name calling and no threatening. Help children define what the rules mean. Calling someone a cheater is name calling. Refusing to be someone’s friend if you don’t get your way is threatening. Saying it is all your fault is blaming. Post the rules and refer to them when needed.
- Take the drama out of the situation-You can of course sympathize a bit with hurt feelings but don’t let it rule the day. Begin by establishing the facts. What happened first? What happened next? Teach children to clearly identify the problem. It helps to have them state the problem without any feelings attached. Teach the difference between the facts and the feelings. And while we are talking about feelings…
- Teach children to be responsible for their own feelings-Most of us think that others have the power to make us mad, or sad or to hurt our feelings. Disagreements provide a great opportunity to teach that others don’t have that power. We control our own feelings by what we tell ourselves about the situation.
- Teach a variety of ways to problem solve and resolve conflicts-Does one child want to play with a toy and the other not want to share? Ask them to list all the possible solutions to the problem. Then rather than you as the parent or teacher making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.
- Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences. Just as children come with their own personalities, we as parents and educators have our own temperament and our own history with conflict as well. Were you the youngest child in your family who felt continually picked on by the oldest? Were you the middle child who felt you had to create conflict to get noticed? Our own history may flavor how we react to conflict in our children. Make sure that you are operating out of a calm space and teaching good skills rather than taking sides or replaying your own history.
As parents and educators, we aren’t just solving kids’ problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life. Does this take more time than simply telling kids to stop fighting and get along? Yes! But in the long run you are teaching important skills as well as saving time because children are learning strategies to solve their own problems rather than rely on you to solve problems for them.
Wyatt Learns about Good Manners
Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways. What can he do? Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.
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