We may think our toddlers and preschoolers are too young to resolve their own conflicts. However, when we model it and practice it with them, they can learn peacemaking habits early. Let’s discuss how to teach kids conflict resolution skills in their everyday lives.
1. Explain How to Respond During Physical Conflict
We’ve all been there. You watch as another child walks up and hits your child – seemingly out of nowhere. Your child’s knee-jerk instinct will likely be to hit back. That’s where you come in. This moment is a great opportunity for you to kneel down with your child and explain to them, “I’m sorry you got hit, but we do not hit other people.” You can ask your child questions like, “Can you let it go?” and teach them to say, “It’s okay, I forgive you.” If your child is very upset, try taking them to another room where it’s quiet and you can give them time and space to calm down.
2. Encourage Them to Communicate with Words
As parents, it’s important to teach our children to communicate with their words as often as possible. Toddlers and young children don’t have the biggest vocabulary, but you can help them find the right words to describe how they are feeling and what it is they want. When their feelings are acknowledged, it reduces their emotional stress and also teaches them valuable life skills, such as identifying and expressing emotions. When your child experiences conflict with another child or children, encourage them to use their words to work things out. They may need you to teach them how to navigate the conversation, but that’s the best way for them to learn.
3. Teach Them How to Think of Others’ Feelings
If you are the parent of a toddler or preschooler, then you already know that it doesn’t exactly come naturally to kids to think of other people’s feelings. This is something that we have to help them develop. For example, if your child takes a toy from another child and refuses to share, they probably need your help understanding why that wasn’t okay. You can explain the emotion that the other child felt when they took the toy away. Not only that, but you can help them come up with a compromise. For example, you could say, “Let’s give this toy back to Madison, because she was playing with it first. But here is a different toy that you can play with.” It may sound overly simple, but keep in mind that these are social skills that your child has to learn and develop through everyday life, and you are the best person to teach them.
Now that you know how to teach kids conflict resolution, you can start practicing it with your child every day. It will take your child lots of practice to learn how to handle conflict, but that’s okay. Modeling the behavior and practicing the habit consistently will increase your child’s emotional intelligence and strengthen their interpersonal skills.