Conflict Resolution Series: Helping Kids Resolve Conflict with Choices
Have you ever encountered a mean kiddo? A kiddo who is a bully or can’t seem to find safe ways to express their feelings? Kids who bully or bulldoze other kids are at risk of becoming social outcasts if they don’t get their emotions in check.
Aside from mean kids, most kids find themselves in conflict at some point. Mary isn’t sharing her toys; David is taking too many turns. Even the nicest kids have to settle a beef now and then. What’s the best way to help little ones without life experience resolve their conflict?
Giving kids choices teaches them a lot of important skills. Skills like:
When kids are in conflict with each other or with you, giving them choices is a perfect way to help them solve their own problems without being punitive.
Here are a couple of examples:
Eddie throws a tantrum over getting dressed. In this case, Eddie is throwing a tantrum about getting dressed in the morning. Offering Eddie a choice as to when he gets dressed - before or after breakfast - can stop the tantrum and give him a sense that he is in control of his own destiny. In reality, you are in control and have the outcome you need: dressed before it’s time to leave.
Beth and Joey won’t share. In this case, Beth and Joey are to share a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which they are fighting over because Beth insists Joey’s side is bigger. Handle sharing like this: Have the kids pick who will cut the sandwich, with your help of course, and the other child gets first pick of which half they want. This ensures that the first child is fair with their cut and the second child has control over their own destiny by choosing their half first.
Giving kids a creative choice that ultimately leads to the outcome you want as an adult resolves conflict. Look for ways to allow your kids to make choices and use the opportunities to open a dialogue about conflict and praise them for their solution-focused skills.
Ask your picky eaters if they want Cereal A or Cereal B for breakfast
Ask your preschooler if they want to bathe after dinner or just before bedtime
Have your grade-schooler pick what day of the week they want to wear their favorite outfit
Have your middle-schooler decide if they want to go to their dental appointment before school or after
Giving choices is an excellent way to teach conflict resolution at nearly any age. Teaching these skills to your kids will pay off as they grow older and learn to negotiate and have patience with difficult people.
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