Arguments happen between children; it’s almost inevitable that competing wishes lead to disagreements. Dealing with the resulting conflict can be tricky for a child who has yet to develop the skills to handle it. As a parent, you have a vital role in helping them learn how to deal with these situations. Luckily, this isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Assessing the Situation
The first thing is to assess the situation and find out a little about the circumstances that led up to the disagreement. Next, you need to decide whether you have to deal with it yourself or you can safely leave the children to find the solution. Both options have their advantages; you dealing with the issue allows them to see how it should be done and gives them an example to follow, and letting them try gives them the chance to practice their conflict resolution skills. You can always guide them through the process, encouraging them to think through the possible options or asking questions, to help them find the best solution.
You may decide that you need to deal with the issue. The key to bringing any conflict to a satisfactory resolution is to make sure both sides have an opportunity to put their side of the story forward, though you might need to wait for them to calm down before they’re able to listen or explain themselves. You must stay neutral and make a considered judgement based on the facts. This helps satisfy the need your children have to be treated fairly. Explaining your reasoning will also go some way to soothing those the decision went against.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Resolving arguments can use a surprising number of cognitive skills, skills children learn from observing those around them and hone through practise. They’ll need to be able to listen effectively and use language that won’t make the situation worse. Problem-solving skills come to the fore as children identify the potential solutions and assess the consequences of each course of action. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll need to be able to look at things from the other person’s point of view and have empathy with how the other person might be feeling.
Conflict between children can be noisy and dramatic yet it can give them a valuable opportunity to develop some of the key social and cognitive skills they’ll need as adults. It can be hard to restrain yourself from stepping in to bring peace but sometimes the best thing you can do is let them argue it out among themselves.