Do you run from conflict? Do you embrace it? Learning conflict resolution skills can set your child up for success in friendships, academics, sport, the workplace, relationships, and even their future parenting! So how do we do help them develop these skills?
Without judgment, let’s imagine a common scenario in which we’ve all either been involved or observed.
Two-year-old boys are playing with some toys and, naturally, they both become fixated on one in particular. They scream, “It’s mine!” simultaneously, and push each other. The one boy’s dad gets angry at his son for behaving like this, and sternly remarks, “No, you do NOT do this, you WILL share.” The other boy’s mom grabs her son’s arm and says, “No hitting! Say SORRY!”
These gut reactions from the parents are so common. Over the years we develop expectations and social contracts that we feel compelled to enforce, especially in public. But are these responses really cultivating the long-term characteristics that we want our children to possess? Was the conflict resolved? Are either boys feeling remorseful? Are they more likely to share in the future?
So, what is the alternative?
First validate feelings:
“You both want the same toy, it’s hard to share!”
“You’re so angry that you felt like you wanted to hit.”
Only once the children are clear about the problem and how they feel will they be receptive to finding a solution.
“Let’s find something else to play with until the other child is done.”
“I have a timer, should we take turns?”
Below is a 10 step “cheat sheet” to help you navigate multiple scenarios.
Of course, these skills take time to teach and to learn, but over time the script becomes less forced, and the words come naturally. The idea of a toddler calmly resolving conflict without adult intervention can seem like a pipe dream, but it is both doable, and wonderfully fulfilling to witness!