How to resolve conflict in children

brother and sister playing together with sand image by Ivonne Wierink from

Whether at home with siblings or other children at school or day care, every child will come in to conflict with other children at some point. How they handle this conflict is important for their self-esteem and can affect the relationships they have with other people.

It is important adults teach children an effective way to problem solve as well as allowing them to think of alternatives to avoid potential conflict says Joyce Fritto of Ohio State University (See Reference 1) There are several things to consider to help a child resolve conflict effectively.

Listen to both children's version of events without judging or commenting. Children tend to see things from their point of view, so it is important you understand how each child views the situation. Ask each individual what happened and why. Make it clear that you want to work toward a solution that will make them both happy.

Encourage the children to listen to each other, including why they believe the conflict started. This effectively forces the children to accept that there is another person with feelings involved. Children are often totally unaware of how their behaviour affects other people.

Help both children understand what the end goal is; this may involve being very clear about what would be a good end result, an answer that suits both children. For example, if both children have been arguing over the same toy, ask them to suggest ideas, such as playing with the toy together or separately for a set time period. Children are much more likely to come to the right decision themselves if the desired goal is clear to them.

Encourage both children to come up with ideas to resolve the problem. Do not judge either child or be negative about their suggestions. Instead, guide them in the direction of the goal that suits them both; to learn to resolve conflict for themselves, children need to learn to problem-solve. This also gives the children a feeling of control and it will boost their self-confidence.

Ask both children to discuss the incident and to tell you how they have decided to handle it. You can then implement whatever action they have decided to take. Be sure to praise the children for handling the problem themselves and reassure them that you know there will be no future conflict between them.