Teaching Your Child How To Resolve Conflict

Especially between loved ones, conflict can be emotionally distressing. It is not uncommon for adults to find it difficult to manage conflict when emotions are high, and as a parent you may find the task of teaching your child conflict management daunting.

As a parent, one of your first goals for teaching conflict resolution will be to improve your child’s understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others in situations of conflict.

An understanding of perspectives will improve your child’s empathy and compassion for others during conflict, which will consequently allow them to better determine viable solutions to the problem.

To help your child understand the multiple perspectives to any situation, draw a triangle on a piece of paper, labeling the corners ‘me’, ‘you’, and ‘observer’. Ask them to first explain their perspective, then the other’s perspective, and then what someone else watching might have thought (e.g. another child, their teacher, a grandparent). If they struggle with this task, ask them specifically how each person feels, what each person thinks of the situation, and what each person wants. Make brief notes of key ideas at the corners of the triangle as your child explains the situation. This task is particularly difficult for young children, so if your child is young, you may need to explain the perspectives of the other and observer or elaborate on what they provide.

Once your child has finished explaining each of the three perspectives, summarize the situation for them by highlighting the feelings, thoughts, and wants of each. Then ask your child how they believe the conflict can be resolved.

Continue to take this approach with each new conflict, even if your child struggles with this task. If emotions are too high in the moment, try this approach later when your child has calmed, as it is difficult for anyone to problem-solve when emotions are high. Do not expect your child to be successful with this approach every time; this is a skill that takes practice. The short-term goal is to direct your child’s attention to their own thoughts and the thoughts of others, to interrupt the strong feelings they are having at the moment, and to better understand the perspective of others in each situation. Once you and your child have fully assessed the conflict situation, you will each have a clearer idea of what options are available to resolve the conflict. The longer-term goal is to further develop your child’s empathy and understanding of others.