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Conflict Resolution

Dear Debi,
The three children I provide care for, a 2-year-old, 5-year-old, and an 8-year-old, constantly have disputes between each other. How do I teach conflict resolution to a wide range of ages?
Karlee, Irvine, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Stop the conflict
  • Validate childrenís feelings
  • Work together to seek a solution
  • Help children verbalize needs and emotions
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
El Camino College professor
The best way to resolve conflicts is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Being observant of the children is very important. You may see signs that a child is feeling frustrated or is having a hard time with sharing. Many times you can prevent conflict by being aware of these things and redirecting the children so that they donít feel frustrated or anxious about a certain situation.

Once a conflict occurs, the first thing to do is to stop it. The next thing to do is to validate the feelings of each child. Thatís important because it conveys respect and understanding of their own needs and perspectives. If the kids feel understood, it will help diffuse their aggression.

Verbalize what the child is trying to communicate. Giving them the words to describe what happened or how they feel at a certain time will help them to communicate better and learn conflict resolution. Only verbalize factually what you see happening. Donít put judgments or opinions in what you say to the children.

You can teach conflict resolution between a five-year-old and a two-year-old. Child Care providers should approach resolving conflict in the same manner for a two-year-old as for a five-year-old, but they should use age-appropriate responses for each child. Validate the feelings of both children. Offer alternatives in order to resolve the conflict. Allow the children to fully participate in the conflict resolution. Ensure each child expresses their feelings.

For example, if 5-year-old Johnny grabs 2-year-old Maryís toy from her, then you should tell Johnny that Mary wasnít finished playing with her toy and that he can have it after sheís done with it. Then you should say to Mary, ďYouíre upset because you werenít finished playing with that.Ē Verbalize their feelings without shaming or humiliating them. Many times, kids get into conflicts because they donít have words yet. Helping them verbalize their feelings for them can help them reduce conflict. Itís also important to remember that itís easier to reason with a 5-year-old than a 2-year-old because they have a greater ability to understand someone elseís point of view.

Remember, adults should serve as role models. The most important way children learn about how to resolve conflicts is by watching you and other adults. Thatís why modeling for your children how to look from someone elseís perspective and how to negotiate with others is very important in teaching them how to resolve conflict.
Child Care provider Comments
Child care provider for 3 years
I like to modify my environment to avoid any potential conflicts. I try to have enough of the same toys so that they wonít struggle over who gets to play with it. If a conflict occurs, I separate the kids and talk to each one individually to find out what the problem is. Then I ask them to apologize, but donít force them if they arenít ready to do it. Then I redirect them again so they donít linger too long on the conflict.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
I think itís really important for kids to know that they are being heard and that their feelings do matter. During a conflict, itís important for kids to feel that they can express themselves and know that their feelings are understood and valid. I try to let them know that itís OK to be angry and that they have a right to feel that way. If kids feel respected and are allowed to express their feelings, they will learn that they should be respectful to others so that others will be respectful to them.
Child care provider for 8 years
Iíve noticed that conflicts arise before kids even have the words to express themselves, so I teach conflict resolution skills when the kids are pre-language. Even when their language is limited, I continue to reinforce the idea of using words to resolve a conflict, instead of getting physical. I do this repeatedly until they learn to use language to resolve issues, rather than hitting or pushing.

Sock Puppets Featured Activity:
Sock Puppets
Managing Conflict Featured Video:
Managing Conflict
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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Related Episodes
Getting Kids to Share
Bullying Behavior
Nurturing Early Social Skills
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
California Safe from the Start
PBS / The Whole Child / Emotional Development
Conflict Resolution Resources
Downloads (Get Reader)
Tips on Resolving Conflicts pdf
Tips on How to Make Every Child Feel Valued pdf
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