Teaching Your Child How to Manage Conflict With Peers

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Throughout their school years kids will clash with peers over a wide range of issues, from playground quarrels about toys and games to arguments over friendships and hurt feelings.

Although childhood disputes may seem trivial to adults, they can cause a lot of stress and heartache for kids and seriously affect learning. Conflict with peers should not be confused with bullying, which involves ongoing targeting and harassment of an individual by one or more peers.

Those who develop skills to manage conflicts with peers and negotiate solutions will find their school years more harmonious and they will carry these skills into adult life.

Managing Emotions

When children don’t get what they want or feel their being treated unfairly their first reaction is to release their emotions, often in the form of tears, a tantrum or lashing out. To manage conflict, kids need to learn how to control their own emotions instead of acting on their immediate impulses.

This is where mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing exercises come in handy. Learning to pause, take note of emotions and make a conscious effort to remain calm is an essential skill for conflict resolution.

When children develop enough awareness to recognise and manage their emotions they can look at the situation more objectively. Conflict usually involves competing wants. Once kids recognise that the needs and wants of others sometimes clash with their own, they will better understand why situations escalate.

Talking and Listening 

Communication is vital to resolving conflicts and kids need the skills to both explain clearly how they’re feeling and what they want, and to listen respectfully to others.

If your child has trouble verbalising his or her emotions, ask them to paint or draw what they’re feeling. Model active listening skills by nodding, maintaining eye contact and repeating what they’ve said when you speak with your child and encourage them to do the same.

When children know how to listen, they learn to see conflicts from the other person’s point of view, opening up the possibility of compromise. Kids who can talk through problems calmly and listen to each other are more likely to reach a peaceful solution without adult intervention.

Resolving conflict requires effort from both parties, and this is not always going to happen. However, by equipping kids with the skills to identify the problem and maintain emotional detachment, they may choose to walk away rather than dig their heels in when a solution can’t be found.

Tips to Build Conflict Resolution Skills

  • Teach kids strategies to calm down and take a step back from the situation.
  • Show empathy and always take children’s problems seriously.
  • Encourage your child to use ‘I’ statements to explain how they feel without assigning blame to others.
  • Model and practice active listening.
  • Discuss common scenarios involving conflict together, imagining the situation from different points of view. Brainstorm win-win solutions.
  • When you have to intervene in a conflict, remember your job isn’t to come up with the solution but to guide kids towards it.
  • Teach children that it’s okay to walk away from an argument.
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