Category Archives: conflict resolution

Teaching kids to get better at getting along

You’ve got two kids who disagree and fight constantly…

Yet they seem attracted to each other like magnets…

You’ve talked to them

You’ve threatened them

You’ve separated them… repeatedly.

What’s the answer?

We’ve all been in this situation before as educators and parents; two kids who just can’t get along but who somehow manage to always wind up together and arguing no matter what you do.  I recently responded to a question much like this on the ASCA forum from a school counselor who was at her wits end with a similar situation.  Here was my answer:

Helping Kids Learn to Get Along

I’m going to suggest something that is probably counter intuitive and outside the box. However, I have found that when you try to enforce a separation strategy,  that it takes a great deal of energy since the students challenge the boundaries at every possible chance. It is much like trying to fight the resistance of two magnets.  There is a better strategy.  Yes, it involves a good bit of time but it is all designed to not only prevent future disagreements, but teach the kids involved how to handle any disagreement in the future. Clearly they need that kind of training.  Plus… you are spending a ton of time trying to keep them apart and putting out fires anyway. Why not invest the time in teaching new skills?

Here’s the plan:

Re-frame the problem as two friends who want to enjoy each other but don’t know how to resolve conflicts.  I would perhaps use the analogy of two carpenters who are trying to build something but who show up for the job with the wrong tools.  They need a hammer and nails and instead they brought a chain saw and a screwdriver so what they try to build results in a lot of frustration.  You are going to teach them the right tools for building a friendship.

Begin with a commitment from each of them to do the work necessary to improve their friendship.  Then back track with them to their latest incident.  What started the conflict?  Who said and did what?  Write it down as though it was a role-play… you could even have them act it out while you write it down, stopping them after each statement. (Pausing should keep emotions low).

Create a list of conflict rules:  No name calling.  No blaming. No yelling.  Think before you speak.  Treat others as you would like to be treated… etc.

Develop a new dialogue: Now working with the students at each point in the latest conflict, have them suggest what they could have said that would have followed the rules and built rather than damaged the relationship.  Have them act it out and describe how they feel at the end.

Anticipate the future: Have the students brainstorm situations that could create problems again.  Review things they can say and do to prevent problems.  Have them practice and role-play the situations so they are prepared.

Follow up:  Check back on a regular basis to mediate any problems, reinforce what they have learned and encourage them to continue good practices.  Review the rules and repeat the  role-playing of situations as necessary until they learn better habits and strategies. Congratulate them on taking the time to learn to be great friends.  Once they are successful ask them to help others who are having friendship conflicts and teach them what they have learned.

Related Posts:

five ways to turn sibling rivalry around

taking the drama out of conflict

what to do when kids argue

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Five Ways to turn Sibling Rivalry Around


 In honor of National Siblings Day I am reposting this blog on Sibling Rivalry.

We can all probably remember the sibling rivalry that went on in our own families. As the oldest in my family, I certainly participated in plenty of bickering and arguing of my own.

Once you become a parent though, what you participated in as a kid quickly becomes one of the most infuriating things you have to deal with.  Unless of course you only have one child, in which case I guess the sibling your child argues with is you!

Turns out the conflict and arguments that are an inevitable part of siblings growing up together, are also great opportunities for children to learn interpersonal skills.  Here are five ways that you as a parent can ease the tension when children disagree and encourage cooperation and understanding.


  • Recognize each child’s different personality style and talents– Recognizing strengths and maximizing them is a great way to honor the individuality of each child. Practical ways that you can do this are by spending one-on-one time regularly with each child and letting him choose what you do together.  Be sure to point out the areas where you see him excelling as well as encourage him in those areas.
  • Model how to compromise and solve conflicts–Children learn from us how to handle difficult situations.  Talk with her about the challenges you face every day and how you worked out the problem.  Make sure you aren’t blaming others or pointing out others faults, but rather are honestly sharing how you reconcile differences.  Point out that just as you had to compromise, or consider options or look at things  from a different perspective, so she can do this as well in her interactions.
  • Encourage positive and constructive communication–Teach your child that conflicts are normal but there a lots of ways to solve them.  Teach your child to identify the problem and then consider the possibilities for resolution.  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 is problem; play together with the toy, set a timer for each child to play individually with the toy, both take a break and play with something else, etc.  Then rather than you as the parent making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.  Teach them ways to decide such as; vote, roll a dice and high number wins, rock, paper, scissors. The point here is that as parents we aren’t just solving their problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life.  Does this take more time than putting the toy up and not letting anyone play with it?  Yes!  But in the long run you are saving time because children are learning to solve their own problems rather than rely on you every time.
  • Frame conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem–Some personality styles are more sensitive to conflict than others.  Some would rather avoid it and others prefer to face it head on.  Teach your children that conflict is normal but how you look at it is important.  Instead of a problem, consider it an opportunity to become closer to each other, to establish rules of play or family time, to understand each others point of view better.  In order to do this, we need to encourage dialogue rather than separation.  As a parent, I would sometime separate my daughters in their own rooms “until you can get along.”  Unfortunately nothing is happening in the separate rooms to encourage this. Instead, consider having the children in conflict sit beside each other and talk until they can solve their differences.
  • Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences.  Just as our children come with their own personalities, we as parents have not only our own temperament but our own history with sibling rivalry.  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.

Sibling rivalry can be seen as a problem to be squashed or an opportunity to build character, cooperation, understanding, interpersonal skills and closeness if we give our children the support and encouragement to help them work it out. As parents we can model and teach the best way to solve interpersonal conflicts, leaving our children with skills they will use all their lives.

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 Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max wants to build a fort and Callie wants to have a tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done?  When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

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