5 Steps to Help Kids Resolve Conflicts

5 Steps to Help Kids Resolve ConflictsI’ve always considered myself non-confrontational and have done my best to avoid conflict. In researching ways to teach kids conflict resolution skills, I’ve discovered that avoidance is actually a choice on the “Conflict Resolution Wheel.” I’m primarily a “walk away” or “go play with somebody else” conflict resolver. And, perhaps because I try to “use kind words and a friendly voice” most of the time, I’m able to steer clear of many conflict situations. I know that my technique is not always the best way to resolve conflicts, nor has it worked in every situation, so I’ve learned to “talk together & work it out” with people in my life who are important to me. Because people aren’t perfect and relationships are messy, we all need to learn how to better resolve conflicts.

Conflict Resolution Wheel

Here’s a Conflict_Resolution_Wheel that you can download!

What kind of conflict resolver are you?

What about your kids? How do they resolve conflicts?

Over my thirty years at camp, I’ve noticed that kids have become less and less adept at solving their problems and conflicts. They are quick to involve adults and call other kids names (“bully” is a favorite). I think they’ve become so accustomed to constant adult supervision that they are prone to seek it immediately, especially when they’re in an uncomfortable situation. There’s nothing wrong with seeking direction, especially when adult intervention is needed, but I want to be sure our counselors this summer are armed with good skills for giving campers guidance on conflict resolution, rather than just providing kids with the solution itself. All too often, we parents tend to rescue our kids from conflict; at camp, kids have a great opportunity to learn to solve such challenges on their own. One of our goals, then, is to prepare counselors to teach campers conflict resolution strategies, which the kids can use in similar situations at home (like with their siblings!).

Here are the conflict resolution steps/strategies we will focus on this summer (and that I’ll be practicing with my bickering sons before camp, too!):

CALM DOWN

Give everyone a chance to take a breather from each other. Ask them each what they need to do to calm down. The “wheel” offers some good choices, like walking away and taking a break for a few minutes, counting to 10 (or 100!), or writing down some feelings. In any case, nothing coherent will come from trying to lead a discussion with upset, emotionally fragile kids. So ask them to figure out the best way to calm down before attempting to solve the problem.

STATE & UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM

Once calm has prevailed, talk to each child (either together or separately, depending on the circumstances) and help them state their problem. Stress the importance of being honest and admitting their role in the conflict (most problems are shared). Encourage them to use “I” statements to express their feelings. For example, “I felt left out and hurt because he wouldn’t let me play the card game, so I threw his towel to annoy him.”

APOLOGIZE WELL

“A good apology will communicate three things: regret, responsibility, and remedy. Apologizing for a mistake might seem difficult, but it will help you repair and improve your relationships with others.” http://www.wikihow.com/Apologize

Encourage each child (or only one, depending on the circumstances) to come up with a good apology. Writing it down before they say it can be a good start, and that letter can be given to the child with whom they’re in conflict. Or, with a younger child, take some notes that they can then use as they apologize. I found a great list of what makes a “good apology,” so it’s best if the child can include all of these parts:

•  Use the words, “I’m sorry.”
•  Acknowledge exactly how you messed up. (As in, “I used unkind words that hurt you.”)
•  Tell the person how you’ll fix the situation.
•  Promise to behave better next time.
•  Ask for forgiveness.

Bad apologies, on the other hand, tend to suffer from these four shortcomings: Justifying words or behavior; Blaming the victim; Making excuses; Minimizing the consequences. (“It was just a joke!”)

PROMOTE SOLUTION FINDING

Empower children to brainstorm solutions to their conflict. It’s so tempting as an all-knowing adult to generate solutions, but something the kids think up and agree upon on their own will more likely work. Encourage each child to listen carefully and to accurately paraphrase each other. Encourage them to speak to each other (not you) and to speak honestly and kindly. (For a sample dialogue format, see Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflicts).

FOLLOW UP

Follow up with the children to see how they are getting along and if the solution they came up with is working. But if the “talk together/work it out” strategy isn’t working for this pair, it’s best to suggest my go-to strategy: find someone else to hang out with. Even if the kids appear to need a prolonged break from one another, they will still be required to speak in a kind and respectful way when they are interacting.

As I wrote this post, I realized that any time I used the word “kid” or “child,” I could easily have used the word “person.” Learning these conflict resolution techniques, and even using the “wheel” and its options, could help a lot of us adults, don’t you think?

how big is my problem

P.S. I didn’t have anywhere to fit this in the post, but I just loved this “How Big is My Problem” poster, which you can order through Teachers Pay Teachers. How often do kids (and adults) communicate a “glitch” or “little problem” as if it’s a “gigantic problem” or an “emergency”? Wouldn’t it be great if we all agreed to keep the same problem scale? We could walk into our co-worker’s office and say, “I’ve got #2 problem today. Can you help me?”

Want to read more about conflict resolution and social skills? Here are some related articles:
10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs
More Than “I’m Sorry” – Teaching Kids to Apologize Well
10 Ways to Teach Kids to Calm Down
Making Friends: 3 Communication Skills Your Child Needs
Making Friends: Managing Difficult Emotions
Making Friends: Developing Emotional Intelligence

5 Steps to Help Kids Resolve Conflicts

If you enjoy reading Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in column on the right), or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for links to other articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading, and have a happy day with your kids!

Want to read more about conflict resolution and social skills?
Here are some related Sunshine Parenting Posts:

10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs
More Than “I’m Sorry” – Teaching Kids to Apologize Well
10 Ways to Teach Kids to Calm Down
Making Friends: 3 Communication Skills Your Child Needs
Making Friends: Managing Difficult Emotions
Making Friends: Developing Emotional Intelligence

Resources/Related:
Teach Kids to Resolve Conflicts Well (Parent Further)
Teaching Kids to Resolve Conflicts Respectfully (pdf from Parenting Exchange)
Conflict Resolution
Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflicts (responsiveclassroom.org)
Helping Resolve Conflicts (kidsmatter.edu.au)
Teaching Young Children to Resolve Conflicts
Four Conflict Resolution Techniques (Playworks)
Six Steps for Resolving Conflicts
Training for Conflict Resolution
Conflict Resolution at School (Rutgers, huge list of resources)
Resolving Conflicts, Promoting Peace
Managing and Resolving Conflicts Effectively
Building Conflict Resolution Skills
How Big is my Problem?
A Meaningful Apology
Trick that will make your next apology better (nymag.com)

 

Sunshine

I'm blessed to have five great kids (ages 12-22) call me “Mom.” As a summer camp director for the past 30 years, I've also had the privilege of working with thousands of kids, college-age counselors, and parents. I follow the latest research and trends on parenting, education, and children’s development and love to share what I learn!

16 Comments
  1. Even if I didn’t know you, I’d learn things from your posts! But since I do, it’s even more fun to read them. Love you

  2. Hi
    Your suggestions for helping students/children resolve conflicts will be a great strategies to use with my students! Most of the conflicts happens during recess time, Where can I get a copy of the “Conflict Resolution Wheel”?

    1. Hello! I’m finally getting back to you. I asked my graphic designer to create a downloadable conflict resolution wheel. It’s in the post now right under “Resources/Related.” Let me know if that works for you!

    1. Sorry for my delay in responding – camp is now over and I’m back blogging!
      Here are two options where you can find the “How Big is My Problem?” poster. Both are from Teachers Pay Teachers, so you’ll need to register (it’s free):
      https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/How-BIG-is-My-Problem-1678589 (free pdf download)
      https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/How-Big-is-my-Problem-Classroom-Management-Poster-1070047 ($2 for digital download of 11 X 14 poster)

      I also found this 24 X 36 poster for $13 that talks about size of problem AND size of reaction: https://socialthinking.com/Products/9781936943241

      Hope that helps!

      Sunshine

  3. Do you have templates or black-line masters of your conflict resolution wheel? It’s better than the one I use at school, and the mascots are perfect for our school. We’re tigers, too!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: