For many, acting defensive or aggressive is a natural response to conflict. However, it is important that children learn effective conflict resolution skills that promote peaceful ways of solving problems between individuals. Learning to deal with conflict in a friendly manner will help your child understand the importance of healthy interpersonal communication and take a low-stress approach to problem solving.
The following steps are useful for your school aged child to peacefully resolve conflict with others:
- Explain to your child that it is possible to find a good solution to the problem. Encourage your child to take a step back and think of the best way to end the conflict with everyone getting what they want.
- Help your child identify how he/she is feeling and express those emotions. For example, you could say, “You seem angry, but I’m wondering if you are feeling hurt and sad too.”
- Ask your child what he/she wants and try to identify if there is an underlying desire or need that hasn’t been met. Is this the underlying cause of anger and frustration?
- Help your child to envision the problem from the other person’s point of view and ask how he/she would feel if the tables were turned. Encourage your child to ask the other person to express his/her feelings.
- Encourage the children to work together to brainstorm different ways to solve the problem.
- When possible, help the children choose the option they think would work best for the situation and mediate their attempt at finding a solution.
Unfortunately, reaching peaceful solution is not always easy, especially if your child is teased or bullied. It is important for your child to understand the best way to react to a bully and successfully avoid the conflict from the very beginning, if possible. Below are some guidelines to better help your child avoid bullying:
- Teach your child a non-violent approach when dealing with a bully, such as walking away, finding a safe adult, or talking about the problem peacefully.
- Role-play bullying scenarios with your child and teach your child how to act with self confidence.
- Don’t encourage your child to fight back. Fighting could cause physical harm, trouble at school and create more serious problems with a bully.
- Engage your child in activities outside of school so he/she is exposed to different social circles.
- Encourage your child to control his/her emotions at school. A bully will target children that are easily angered or intimidated.
- Tell your child to avoid being alone in certain places that enable bullying like locker rooms and bathrooms.
- Encourage your child to tell you or other trusted adults (like teachers or the school principal) if he/she is being bullied. Notifying adults about hurtful behavior is not the same as tattling.
Remember, conflict resolution can be a tricky skill to teach children as it’s sometimes even difficult for adults. What have you found to be the most effective ways to resolve conflict?
Jessica Scheunemann is a family therapist. She provides in-home therapy to families with children under the age of 6 that have emotional and behavioral concerns.
“Parent Guide to Helping Children Manage Conflict, Aggression and Bullying. “Australian Psychological Society. <http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/bullying/>.