Kids fight. It’s human nature; we have disagreements all the time, even as adults. But learning how to handle each other’s differences is no doubt an important part of life. Tolerance can keep mankind working as a unit. And let’s face it: we’re social creatures. We need each other, kids need each other, and to meet that need, we have to learn to get along. So, how do you teach conflict resolution to kids? In this article, we’ll discuss some tips for doing so as a tutor, teacher or parent.
Understand where conflict originates, and why it should be discussed in the first place
This point may seem obvious. But there are some good ways of articulating or describing conflict and its need to be resolved. For kids, getting it ‘into their heads’ might take a while. As this article states, “like violence, nonviolence is learned behaviour.”
So, follow-through may be needed, for when the lessons become applicable. When you read resources online for teaching conflict resolution to kids, you’ll see that most of them surround the real experiences kids are going through, or have in their memory. Thus, the subject requires application to be learned.
But for a teacher, tutor or parent, having this ‘talk’ with your students can reduce the amount of time you need to spend as the ‘mediator’ or ‘judge.’ Petty fights among kids can cause them to lose focus on the more important lessons you’re trying to teach, or get the whole class through. You won’t want a bunch of annoyed, disturbed and outright angry kids in a classroom, causing more disruption either.
And, as mentioned above, kids need these skills to survive on their own one day. Helping them act as independent problem solvers is a major goal when teaching conflict resolution.
Develop or use online lesson plans for teaching conflict resolution to kids
Whether paid or free, the Internet is of course, full of open educational resources you can use to develop lessons on conflict resolution with your group of kids.
In addition to ones linked to in the article above, here are some to get you started:
Teach kids to ask the right questions when resolving conflict
One way or another, parties who are angered by conflict need to find a personal solution. Whether that solution turns into violence and more fighting, or peace and resolution depends on how they handle conflict in the first place.
Here we’ll ‘steal’ a chapter from psychologists who use the practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). CBT is a method that explores how someone feels, thinks or acts, and the reasons why. It then helps them identify solutions to those problem tendencies, for long term change. When dealing with anger, CBT is a researched, established method for making a difference in someone’s life. To use a colloquial description, think of CBT as a way of ‘retraining’ the brain.
So, why are we bringing this up? Because, conflict resolution requires a way of thinking and looking at a problem that goes beyond the initial feelings of anger. To do this, you have to challenge yourself with questions. And the more people in a situation of conflict that are willing to do this, the better.
For example, see how this site, dedicated to conflict resolution, presents questions for conflicted parties to ask themselves. Questions include even first asking if a person wants to resolve a conflict. And then, it goes deeper to next steps, such as finding a fair, negotiable compromise.
This type of conflict resolution is a trait to be learned, as seen on the aforementioned site’s summary of skills on this issue. For example, asking the kids in your class to focus on the positives, instead of the negatives. For this, they need to first see how conflict can be turned into “creative opportunities.” They also need to dig deep to find out if perhaps, the conflict arose because of unapparent ‘seed’ issues (like, perhaps they are truly angry about something else, or very tired, or ‘hangry’).
In this relationship worksheet for conflict resolution, angry parties learn skills like focusing on a problem, instead of a person. They also learn to communicate better, so they don’t further exacerbate a problem. Our experiences can tell us that most of the time, people aren’t ‘born’ to handle things this way!
Teach kids the right vocabulary for conflict resolution
When teaching conflict resolution skills to kids, you’ll come across a lot of vocabulary surrounding the subject. These one-word lines can be useful memorization aids, to give kids a ‘toolbox’ of ideas to apply when they encounter conflict in the future. You’ll find these on the aforementioned articles we’ve linked to. They include words like “negotiate,” “arbitrate,” “litigate” and “mediate.” Depending on how old the kids are which you are teaching, you may want to start with vocabulary definitions. This can also be a way to ease-in to the topics of asking students to define situations when they could use those strategies.
To conclude: kids can become their own problem solvers, if we teach them how
Finally, as a concluding word, we should mention that our teaching kids of conflict resolution should come with good examples for them to follow. The skills taught above are knowledge-based. But most of this topic involves experience, as we’ve mentioned earlier. And so, while you can teach kids any number of facts, eventually it can come down to what they see and model around them. The good news is that since conflict resolution is a skill, and not a natural-born talent, there is hope for all of us!