Teaching Your Child Conflict Resolution

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/>.

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