5 Steps to Building Conflict Resolution Skills in Children

A group of 3 middle school girls walking to school

This post was originally published in October 2013, and has been updated for accuracy and relevancy in October 2021.

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

Preventing and dealing with any kind of conflict can be challenging for children. Dealing with bullying is especially difficult. First off, do you know the warning signs of bullying? And secondly, it’s important to discuss bullying prevention and conflict resolution strategies for dealing with disputes. They will equip your kids with how to handle difficult situations before they arise.

One of the best bullying prevention tips your child can use is to develop conflict resolution skills.

How to Develop Conflict Resolution Skills for Kids

Dealing 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.

Karen Muston, School Counseling Consultant at Connections Academy, has a lot of great insight into the process of conflict resolution. The most important thing to remember is that conflicts are usually a result of varying opinions, interests, and thought processes. Conflicts can be healthy. But with the right conflict resolution skills, they can strengthen relations and even help us to be more open-minded.

5 Steps to Conflict Resolution for Kids:

  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.
  5. RESPECT the opinions of others, even if you can’t agree.

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 must remain positive, patient, and sincere. Some tips on what NOT to do include:

  • Resorting to name-calling
  • Using physical violence
  • Interrupting the other person
  • Refusing to listen
  • Insulting someone’s intelligence

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 conflict resolution techniques are crucial learning experiences 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. “Good communication skills, including the ability to listen, is critical to conflict resolution,”
says Muston.

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 become more positive and productive, along with promoting kindness. Treating others with respect and compassion is something that everyone should aspire to
do. And it can help children avoid unnecessary conflict.

Practicing Conflict Resolution Strategies 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. For more tips on preventing bullies from home, have your student take our kindness pledge.

Explore the Power of School Choice

Sometimes, a bullying scenario needs to be cut off to be resolved. And a change in the school environment, like transferring to an online school, might be the best solution for your student. Embrace your power of school choice, and learn about the differences in schools, especially between traditional brick-and-mortar schools and online schools, and see if it’s the right fit for your family today.

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