5 of the Best Conflict Resolution Skills that Kids Need

Why Conflict Resolution Skills are Absolutely Necessary

Conflicts happen in life. There’s really no way around it. Try as we might, we cannot protect our kids from all conflict, but we can teach them conflict resolution skills to help them through it.

This process starts early — at playdates when kids are fighting over the same toy, at home when siblings disagree, at school when kids are trying to sort out where they fit in the social hierarchy. Each of these scenarios brings opportunity for kids to learn how to process what’s going on, think about other people’s feelings, and resolve problems in the best way they can.

I know, I know. You might be thinking, Easier said than done! In reality, conflict resolution skills aren’t as neat as they look on paper: The other child won’t give back the toy, a small sibling spat turns into fisticuffs, the adversity rises when that twerp kid on the playground won’t stop bullying your child. But there are so many things we can do to prepare our kids to work it out to the best of their ability.

Read on for some of our best advice — and a great infographic to help you navigate the world of conflict resolution skills for kids!5 of the Best Conflict Resolution Skills that Kids Need

1. Start Early and Give Yourselves Grace

Like I said before, conflicts arise early in life. Why not start conflict resolution skills early, too? Treat each issue as an opportunity for growth — for both you and your child. Remember, you’re both learning how to work through this process. So give yourself and you child an extra measure of grace as you both learn how to navigate the waters of conflict resolution skills. A little grace goes a long way.

2. Talk. Like, a lot.

Educators use the term modeling for the process where kids see how something could be done and thereby learn to do it themselves. This is what you’ll be doing: showing your kids how to navigate conflict resolution appropriately.

But since much of conflict resolution skills take place internally — that is, you’re thinking through what to do before taking action — it’s your job as the parent to start talking through your process of thinking.

As early as two or three years old, you can talk a child through conflict resolution skills like this:

  • “What’s going on? Oh, Jennifer doesn’t want to play kitchen with you? Bummer! Have you tried asking her what she would like to play?”
  • “I see that James took that toy away from you. I’m sorry that happened. Can you use your words to ask for it back, please?”
  • “Oh, no, we don’t hit. I know you’re frustrated that your little brother took your toy, but hitting is not a good way to show that. Can you find one of his toys and ask if he will trade you?”

In each of these simple examples, you’re building your child’s cognitive thought processes in a positive way — setting the foundation for him or her to know how to respond appropriately in the future.

As your kids grow, you’ll have more talk through, more thought processes and conflict resolution skills to model. Just try to take it slow (remember to give lots of grace!) and approach it with the expectation that your child is learning how to respond appropriately when conflicts arise.

3. Don’t Be Perfect

Yep, you read that right. Maybe I should back up a bit…

As much as it’s vital for you to help your kids through their conflicts, it’s also important to note that you model conflict resolution skills in how you respond to conflicts in your own life.

For example, if your kids hear you yell at a customer service representative over the phone, they might get the subtle message that it’s okay to do that. Yikes! It’s not the message you meant to send, but there it is. What’s a parent to do?!

Well, the good news is you don’t have to be perfect. Nope. Parenting is rarely about perfection so much as it is about those moments where you go back to your kids and say, “Did you hear me yelling on the phone? That was not okay for me to do. I was frustrated, but that was not a good way to show it. I’m so sorry for doing that.”

This is an important and valuable lesson for kids to learn: even grownups make mistakes sometimes, but they have a chance to go back and make it right.

4. Listen

We’ve already established that talking is important… but there’s something even more important than that. That’s right, it’s listening!

If your child comes home from school feeling dejected because of a negative interaction at school, just hear her out. Don’t switch into fix-it mode (as hard as it may be to hold back — believe me, I know).

Practice empathetic, reflective listening to get your child to open up about how the situation made her feel. You might say things like, “I hear you saying that it made you feel sad when your friend treated you that way” or “I bet you felt misunderstood when your friends laughed about that.” Try your best to reflect their emotions and give them words for what they’re feeling (without bringing your own emotions into the mix).

This can open up valuable opportunities for connecting with your child.

5. Let Kids Use Their Conflict Resolution Skills

When appropriate, sometimes you just have to let your child work out his or her own problem.

There are many, many times when it’s out of your control as a parent. If you’re anything like me, that might want to make you curl up in a corner. But teach your child what you can, and hope that the rest unfolds.

It is important to note that if you suspect there is danger of harm or bullying happening, those are always great reasons to step in as an adult who helps work it out. But if it’s just your run-of-the-mill conflict between kids, you might be pleasantly surprised when you take a step back and see your child’s conflict resolution skills take flight.

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr, let’s work on teaching our kids empathy and healthy conflict resolution skills. After all, kids who learn these lessons now grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow.

As Dr. King once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Thank goodness we’re in this together, raising Smart Kids.

Happy MLK Day!

Conflict Resolution Skills Infographic from Smart Kids 101

READ NEXT: From Referee to Relaxation (Helping Your Kids with Conflict) 

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About Aubrey Hunt
Before hopping on the crazy ride we call motherhood, I studied engineering and taught math and science to middle and high school students. Now, perhaps like you, I fill my days singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and praying my preschooler will eat a vegetable — any vegetable!

2 thoughts on “5 of the Best Conflict Resolution Skills that Kids Need”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post! It really helped me to rebuild my way of understanding kids from different situations. What I like most about is your Resolution #1. Conflicts are really present in every situation but whenever given immediate resolution, bigger conflict will be avoided. Off to share this so many would learn. Thanks!

    1. Aubrey Hunt says:

      Thanks, Christy! I’m so glad you found it useful. I appreciate the shares! 🙂 I’m off to check out your site now. Thanks for stopping by.

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