Learning Conflict Resolution
Children who have some perspective-taking ability can be helped to learn conflict resolution skills. The ability to avoid and resolve conflicts constitutes another essential aspect of social competence. It involves the ability to communicate personal needs and to listen to others expressing theirs. It also involves willingness to compromise as well as the capacity to manage aggression (Siccone & Lopez, 2000). All these aspects of negotiation require the child to take into consideration the viewpoint of others. These sophisticated abilities require significant practice.
“You dummy!” yells Megan as Sam pours rice into the funnel at the rice table. Her teacher calmly walks over and asks Megan, “You don’t like something Sam is doing?” The the teacher guides Megan’s words from merely expressing anger to clear communication of what is upsetting her. Sam needs help hearing this message and deciding what to do about it. The teacher is there to make this a valuable learning experience for both children.
Children do not get this practice if adults solve problems for them. Instead, adults must guide youngsters in age-appropriate ways and help them to resolve their own differences. For very young children with limited language ability, the teacher may do the talking for both parties in reflecting the two viewpoints. As children mature, they can gradually take a more active role in the expression of their different views. The goal is for the teacher or parent to intervene as little as possible. In the following example, Stephen seems to have learned a lot:
Kyle had grabbed a truck from Stephen and wouldn’t give it back. Then he took a larger truck and hit Stephen with it. The first impulse of the teacher, Maureen, was to go to Stephen and see if he was all right. But the chain of events that happened next kept her out of it.
Stephen stood up, looked at Kyle with an angry face, and said, “What’s my face telling you? I’m mad and if you hit me again or won’t play nice I’m going someplace else to play!” Then Stephen sat down and began to play again. Kyle looked surprised, gave back the truck, and they were off playing together again. Maureen caught Stephen’s eye, smiled, and winked a congratulatory message. She felt wonderful to see the results of the teaching she had been doing.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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