When you drop your children off at daycare, you hope that they’ll have a fun and fulfilling day. You look forward to hearing about what they learned and experienced. However, you also worry that something bad could happen to them someday. For example, they may get scrapes and bruises from falling on the playground, or another student may something mean to them.
Hugs and a few Band-Aids will take care of the former. As for the latter, your children need to learn how to resolve conflicts with their peers—and the sooner, the better.
Because your children interact with many other students on a daily basis, they have a high risk for interpersonal conflict. Teach your children about the tips below to ensure they respond constructively to this kind of problem.
1. Pause before you react and collect your thoughts.
Most children don’t have experience with this kind of conflict, so they tend to emotionally explode. However, encourage your children to take a deep breath and wait before responding to a rude comment or an argument. If they wait, they can avoid perpetuating the problem with rude comments or insensitive arguments of their own.
This pause also gives your children a chance to swallow their emotions and respond with a rational or empathetic approach.
2. Try to understand the problem from the other person’s point of view.
Empathy matters more than anything else in conflict resolution. Teach your children that they don’t have to prove the other person wrong to solve interpersonal problems. Rather, they need to understand that person.
When you explain these tips to your children, make sure you outline how to feel empathy. Your children should think about what could have made this other person angry, and then they should react with compassion. This concept may prove difficult to teach, so don’t expect your children to get it right away.
3. React calmly, if at all possible.
When your children have interpersonal problems, they should not use raised voices or talk over the other person. They should not throw tantrums or try to physically hurt the other person ether. Instead, they must keep their voices natural and even. Encourage them to sit still and keep their hands folded in their laps as well. This behavior will make them seem less threatening to their peers.
4. If you must react with emotion, react from a place of sadness, not anger.
Anger only makes issues worse. So, if your children struggle to react calmly, encourage them to react with sadness rather than anger. Sadness looks less threatening to other people—and when people feel threatened, they don’t want to cooperate or empathize. Sadness, on the other hand, persuades other people to feel empathy because they know they caused someone pain.
Additionally, sadness ensures that your children don’t do anything physical or verbal that gets them in trouble.
5. Involve a teacher or other authority figure.
Sometimes, even if your children behave responsibly, the other student may not want to cooperate. In this situation, your kids must involve a teacher, administrator, or other authority figure. They can even involve you. This strategy forces all parties to sit down and find a resolution. Adults can even suggest ways to end the disagreement more quickly.
Also, if your children don’t feel brave enough to confront the angry or rude peer on their own, an authority figure can give them the confidence to continue.
6. Admit it when you are wrong.
Children feel especially sensitive to failure because many of them want to prove their poise and skill to their friends and parents. As a result, when they do something wrong, they try to hide it. Tell your kids that they should not continue this practice during disagreements. If they do something wrong, they should admit it and apologize for it.
7. Tell people exactly why you feel as you do, and explain specifically what you expect from them.
Sometimes people act passive aggressively because they want the other person to do all the work. They see this other person as the responsible party, so he or she has to apologize and make amends of his or her own volition. However, the passive-aggressive strategy rarely works in real conflicts. In fact, it usually makes the situation worse.
So, have your children outline the specifics of what they want from their peers when they have disagreements. Tell them to ask directly for apologies.
8. Forgive the other person.
At the end of the conflict resolution process, your children must forgive the other student. Remind your kids that they shouldn’t let their anger or bitterness fester. They need to let the problem go and treat their peer kindly. If they cannot, then they need to ask you or their teacher for further ways to solve the problem.
When your children know how to deal with disagreements responsibly, they’ll have a better time at daycare. Use the tips above to help them develop this skill.