Children will be children. And if you have more than one in a room, there’s a good bet there will be an argument or conflict at some point. Teaching conflict resolution to your children will reduce your frustrations and help bring peace to your home.
One way to address conflict resolution is by using books. Authors of children’s books are able to write to a child’s level of understanding. They create characters that children can identify with. The story can be used to describe a conflict between characters as well as demonstrate to children the best way to resolve that conflict. Once they see a different way to resolve problems, they’ll be more likely to use those skills the next time they have a conflict.
While you’re reading the story to your children, stop occasionally to discuss what’s going on. Ask them questions like:
* Have you ever felt that way?
* What have you done in a similar situation in the past?
* How do you think _______ feels about what happened to them?
* What do you think _______ is going to do?
* What would you do?
Continue reading the story and talking about what’s going on in it. Help them understand there are two sides to every argument or conflict. Ask them about their feelings and how their feelings might affect what they say or do. You could also ask them how they might resolve what’s going on in the story before you read that part. Finally, ask them what the character learned from the situation in the book and how that knowledge could help them solve their own conflicts.
Talk about appropriate ways to handle conflicts. Remind them to never use violence because violence never solves a problem; it only creates others. Help them see that talking about a problem and working toward a resolution together is the best way to resolve a conflict.
Do your best to be a good role model for your children. If you live with other people, you’re going to have a conflict sooner or later. Remember that your children are watching you. They want to see how you handle conflicts, even with them – especially once you start teaching them about it. If you get angry, yell and shout, they are less likely to believe that’s not the right way to resolve conflict. Try to remain calm and talk about things rather than letting your emotions get the best of you.
Here are some steps you may want to model for them:
1. When you begin feeling angry or frustrated, stop before you say something you’ll regret.
2. Take a deep breath and count to ten.
3. Calmly explain how you feel about what happened or was said.
4. Listen to what the other person has to say about the subject.
5. Think about different solutions to the problem.
6. If you can’t reach an agreement which both of you can accept, ask someone not involved to help you resolve the conflict. Agree to abide by what the third party suggests.
Once you begin teaching conflict resolution to your children, you may notice less stress and fussing in your home. Continue to work with them when they have disagreements, model conflict resolution before them, and your children will be better equipped to handle any conflicts they have in the future. And isn’t that what parenting is all about – equipping our children for life outside of your home?
For more help, please see our article: Handling Sibling Rivalry
We also recommend the very popular book: Siblings Without Rivalry