Conflict is a part of life regardless your age. Children learning to deal with conflict may need assistance navigating their emotions and approaching the heart of an issue. Whether you find yourself mediating a conflict between children or are helping your child learn how to cope with conflict when you're not around, it's important to develop a consistent strategy of your own.
Lead By Example
Your ability to effectively intervene in a conflict depends heavily on your initial reaction to it. The only way to reach a win-win solution to a conflict is for the conflicting parties to discuss their differences rationally and calmly. Approach children on their own level. Speak to them in a calm, level voice, and prevent the conflict from escalating until each child is calm. Remind the children that a conflict is a problem that needs to be solved, not a person who needs to attacked or defeated. Setting a good example early earns establishes your credibility as a mediator.
Indicate Understanding by Restating Emotions
Before asking questions about who did what to whom, restate each child's feelings to them until you reach an agreement with them about how they feel. Avoid making preliminary judgments; make everyone feel as though their feelings are acknowledged. Emotions can run high, even among rationally debating adults when people feel like they are not being heard. Your willingness to listen makes each child feel that you are dealing with them fairly, making it possible for you to investigate the situation.
Investigate The Issue
Establish core facts that everyone agrees on. Establishing core facts draws out any miscommunication or misinterpretation of facts that may have lead to the conflict. Ask simple, direct questions to each child, one at a time. Listen carefully to each response. Your goal is not necessarily to see where points of view differ, but what they have in common. Avoid passing judgment until the issue becomes clear. Ask each child what an ideal solution to the conflict would look like for her and what alternative solutions she is willing to accept.
Reach a Firm Conclusion
While there are two sides to every conflict, it does not follow that each side is always equally valid. If one child has clearly been wronged by another, or if a rule has been broken, it is important to follow through with implementing any consequences that may involve. A firm and final conclusion should be agreed to by each child, even if the conflict is just a misunderstanding. Such a solution should resolve the conflict at hand and reduce or eliminate future conflicts.
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