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Happy Child Guide

Children naturally engage in conflicts. As a parent with more than one child, or a professional who works with children, it can be difficult to know what to do when children are fighting over a toy or squabbling about who gets to go out the door first.

But there are some simple steps that actually teach children how to handle conflicts appropriately, that may even result in less tears.

STEP 1 - Acknowledge feelings

When children are fighting over something, there are often a lot of emotions involved. When children are upset, first acknowledge this fact by saying, “I see that you are both very angry about this.” As with adults, most often children want their feelings to be validated.

If we begin by saying, “Stop crying” or “Be quiet,” we will only make the situation worse by angering the children further. Validating children’s feelings on the other hand, can serve to help children begin to calm down because they will know they are understood.

STEP 2 - Describe the problem

Once children have calmed down from their initial anger over the situation, you can ask them to explain their problem. Keep in mind that children will not be able to tell you what is wrong until they are no longer sobbing or yelling.

When a child or person of any age for that matter is angry, it is hard to think straight, so be sure to wait an appropriate amount of time for the children to calm down before moving on to this step. After the children have explained the problem, restate it in your words.”So the problem is you both want to play with the red truck?” Then ask both children to confirm that this is indeed the problem.

STEP 3 - Suggest and ask for solutions

Depending on the children’s age (younger children may need more adult help than older children) either begin by asking, “What should we do about this?” You could also suggest an idea. Older children will begin to offer up solutions.

For example, one child says, “How about if I play with the red truck and he plays with the blue one?” Then you would ask the other child, “Would that be OK with you?” Keep in mind that both children need to agree on the solution. If they do not agree on the solution given, keep asking them to think of ways for both children to be happy. If they are younger and not ready to offer their own ideas, you may suggest some until they both agree.

STEP 4 - Restate the solution

Now the adult can say, “So our solution to this problem is…” Then acknowledge the children’s agreement by saying, “You solved the problem.”

STEP 5 - Follow up

Be prepared to follow up with the children about 10 minutes after the solution has been reached. If children begin to have problems again, revisit the conflict solving process. If all seems well, check with them by saying, “How is the solution you thought of working out?“


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