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The skills needed for resolving conflict effectively are complex.
They involve managing feelings, understanding others, communicating effectively, developing options and making decisions. Parents and carers play an important role in helping children resolve conﬂicts. You can also play a critical role in establishing positive guidance that teaches children the skills needed to resolve conﬂicts effectively.
How you can guide children’s conflict resolution
Set the scene for cooperation
Show how to cooperate and respect others through your own approach. Ask children to help solve the conﬂict and express conﬁ dence that they can work it out cooperatively. It is very important that children approach the conﬂict in a positive way, and believe that they can work together to solve it.
Help children handle emotions
Children may need encouragement and help to stay cool in a conﬂ ict – especially if they feel they are being accused or blamed. They may feel anxious and need support to stay calm if they feel intimidated. In conﬂicts that are particularly heated, children may need to have time away from each other to cool down before going on to work out ways of resolving the conﬂict. Taking time to calm down can help children overcome the tendency to react aggressively or withdraw from the situation.
Encourage empathy and respect for others
Teach children to listen to and understand the needs and concerns of the other person. Help them to ask why the other person wants something and consider what it might be like to be ‘in their shoes’. Learning to understand the other person’s perspective is a critical foundation for conﬂict resolution and for building positive relationships.
Practise communication skills
Effective conﬂ ict resolution relies on clear communication of feelings and wants. This can be especially difﬁcult when under pressure in a conﬂict. Learning to speak clearly and respectfully takes practice. You can help children practise what to say to initiate conﬂ ict resolution, for example: “If we talk about this, I’m sure we can sort it out.” Practising assertive ways for children to express their wants and concerns is also particularly helpful, for example: “I want you to ask before using my things.”
Encourage creative solutions
In conﬂ icts people often get stuck in their own positions and can’t see other options. This is why it is so important to get creativity going when thinking of possible solutions. The brainstorming rule, that no-one is allowed to say that something won’t work, is intended to help with getting creative. Steer children back to the point if necessary, but leave evaluation of the ideas they come up with for later. It’s okay for adults to help children think of alternative solutions if it helps them to get creative.
When enough is enough
Some conﬂicts are too big for children to work out. Sometimes children are not ready to sort them out and the conﬂict continues to escalate. If children’s conﬂicts become very intense or lead to physical aggression, then it is important for an adult to step in. When a mutual solution is not possible you can still help your child to think through the alternatives that are available to him or her and choose the best one.