Conflict Resolution for Growing Preschoolers

An unfortunately significant part of life is dealing with conflicts and arguments with others. No one knows this better than preschoolers, as they’re still learning to properly process emotions and communicate with others their own age. As the parent, you may find yourself tempted to step in and resolve your children’s conflicts yourself or at least provide significant intervention, but the better method is to help your children learn to handle their arguments themselves. Conflict resolution is a critical lesson for kids to learn.

Conflict resolution for kids can be tricky to teach and help implement. How do you, as the parent, balance intervention with independent learning? This method will help you develop these skills in your kids. #WoodlandsTreeHouse Click To Tweet

Conflict Resolution for Kids

Different people handle conflict and problem-solving in different methods. This is especially true for kids, who are still working out how to be their own people and how to relate to their peers. Having said that, child development experts do tend to agree on a natural progression for conflict resolution between children. With a few minor variations, this natural progression generally follows these steps:

  1. Avoid overly emotional reactions
  2. Identify the immediate problem
  3. Take responsibility
  4. Find a solution together
  5. Make sure the solution works

1) Avoid Overly Emotional Reactions

Adults and kids alike should learn to recognize that no good can come from letting emotions run rampant. To best resolve a conflict, have your kids take a step back and just breathe for a minute. Give your emotions and your children’s emotions time to calm down on their own. Resolution can continue once everyone can approach the problem with cooler heads.

2) Identify the Immediate Problem

What caused the immediate source of conflict? This isn’t the time to dig deep and find the “root cause”–focus on what happened in the moment to make your kids start fighting. Have your kids explain to you (separately if need be) what happened. Once you’ve heard both sides of the story, you can work toward settling the argument.

3) Take Responsibility

While some childhood arguments consist of a single aggressor and an innocent victim, most of the time both children involved will bear some fault. Encourage your kids to think about what happened and to use “I/me” statements to describe the situation. For example: “I was mad at my brother so I took his toy.” Framing the discussion like this forces your child to acknowledge what they did and take responsibility for it.

The next step in taking responsibility is offering a sincere apology. Have the child at fault (or both if necessary) tell the other what they did and why it was wrong, express their regrets, and promise to do better in the future. Once they’ve accepted each other’s apologies, they can move forward from the incident.

Pro Tip: It’s easy for tempers to flare when two kids apologize to each other for a fight. Keep both sides calm and focused on what happened rather than their anger about the incident.

4) Find a Solution Together

Don’t tell your children exactly what to do to find the ultimate solution or fix the situation. While you should be present to guide them and answer questions, they need to find the solution together. For instance, if the fight was over a particular toy, maybe they’ll decide that the solution is to trade toys every couple of days so each child gets a chance with the toy in question. Whatever the solution, it should be their idea and they should be responsible for handling it.

5) Make Sure the Solution Works

Allow some time to pass for the solution to begin taking effect before following up. Let’s continue the example of trading toys. After a few days and the initial toy trade, talk to each child individually about their feelings regarding the trading system. Does it seem to be working? Do they feel like there are any unresolved issues still left?

If the strategy was successful, great! Your job is done. If either child feels like there’s more left to resolve, have both sit down and have a discussion about the situation. Find a resolution together.

Lasting Conflict Resolution

The goal of teaching conflict resolution is not to allow your kids to avoid any and all future arguments. Rather, the goal is to teach them to handle inevitable conflicts with maturity and self-assurance, protecting their own mental health without degrading the other person in the process. Teaching this simple 5-step method is an excellent starting point. With this foundation, your children will learn to take responsibility for themselves and handle problems gracefully.

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