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Building Conflict Resolution Skills in Children

By: Dan Reiner
Conflict Resolution Skills for Kids

It’s National Bullying Prevention Month, and we have a question for you and your student: What are you going to do to fight bullying?

Preventing and dealing with any kind of conflict can be challenging for children. Dealing with bullying is especially difficult. By discussing bullying prevention and productive tools for dealing with disputes, you will equip your children to handle difficult situations before they arise.

One of the best steps you can take is to develop your child’s conflict resolution skills.

Taking the Right Steps to Resolve Conflict

Learning to deal with conflict is a lifelong skill that everyone should have. It’s especially important for today’s children, who can face conflict not only in person, but also online through cyberbullying.

Meredith Yowell, the Manager of Counseling Services at Connections Academy, has a lot of great insight into the process of conflict resolution. The most important thing to remember is that sometimes conflict isn’t about deciding who’s right and who’s wrong—instead, it’s just acknowledging that different opinions sometimes clash.

Children who get into a conflict can follow these steps:

  1. STOP. Don’t let things get out of control. Take a step back and try to calm down, since anger makes conflicts more difficult to resolve.  
  2. SAY what the conflict is about. Make sure you both have a clear understanding of what is causing the disagreement, and clarify what each of you wants or doesn’t want. 
  3. THINK of positive options. What’s a fair solution that meets both of your needs?  
  4. CHOOSE a positive option that each of you can agree on.

If you still can't agree, ask an objective outsider to help. Someone who is in not invested in the outcome is likely to be more objective about the situation.

Children also have to remain positive, patient, and sincere. Resorting to name-calling or physical violence is counterproductive, as is interrupting the other person or refusing to listen.

When children face bullies who don’t want to engage in conflict resolution, they may need to try different tactics. Advise them to talk to a trusted adult about the situation. Be sure to talk with your child about who are the trusted adults in his or her life, so that in a difficult situation your child immediately knows to whom he or she can turn for help.

Why Conflict Can Be a Good Thing

Learning how to resolve conflicts is a crucial learning experience for children, showing them how to cooperate and compromise with others. Conflicting views give you a chance to learn more about yourself, explore the views of others, and develop constructive relationships. “Clear and open communication is the cornerstone of successful conflict resolution,” says Yowell.

Understanding how to deal with conflict properly allows you to:

  • Learn more about yourself and your set of beliefs and values.
  • Build self-confidence and understand how to express and assert yourself.
  • Develop solid communication and negotiation skills.
  • Accept criticism gracefully and be open to new ideas.
  • Understand when to stand up for your beliefs and when to reevaluate them.
  • Choose your battles wisely.
  • Respect the views of others, whether or not you agree with them.
  • Strengthen relationships with others by finding common ground.

Developing these skills helps children and adults become more positive and productive. Another important step to developing effective relationships and fighting bullying is to promote kindness. Always treating others with respect and compassion is something that everyone should aspire to do. It can especially help children avoid unnecessary conflict.

Practicing Conflict Resolution at Home

Try role-playing to practice conflict resolution skills. Help your student come up with a few scenarios, and then use the conflict resolution steps to work through them.

You can also print out the steps and keep them handy for the next time you and your student—or your student and a sibling—get into an argument.

Do you think that understanding conflict resolution is good way to help students face difficult situations? Please share your thoughts and questions with us.