Conflict is a fact of life. Although many people think only of its ugly or unfortunate results, some conflict is actually necessary and good. It all depends on how a particular conflict is handled.
Children, like adults, face many conflicts in their lives. Maybe someone teases a child, a best friend suddenly doesn't want to be best friends anymore, or the "in" group at school won't let him or her sit with them in the cafeteria. Children also encounter conflicts at home, often involving possessions, responsibilities, or privacy. In their neighborhoods, they may have to deal with older children who bully and threaten them. As they grow older, they may face difficult moral decisions as they deal with peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.
Children learn how to manage conflict in the same way they learn to do many other things--by watching what goes on around them. They learn from you; from teachers and other adults; from other children; and from television, movies, and other media. How can we all help them learn the best strategies? Here are some tips:
- Give your child some special time each day. This may be really tough in today's busy world, but experts tell us that 20 minutes of positive adult attention per day dramatically reduces children's aggressive behavior.
- Teach your child to ask for attention constructively. Sometimes the purpose of a fight with a brother or sister is to get attention. Encourage your child to ask for attention by expressing needs. Catch your child doing something right. Praise your child for doing well, rather than reprimanding him when mistakes are made.
- Teach your child to recognize the feelings of others. You can point out when someone is happy, sad, scared, worried, and so on. When children learn to recognize what someone else is feeling, they are better able to respond appropriately.
- Listen first, then help your child negotiate a solution. Acknowledge your child's feelings about a conflict before helping to work out a solution.
- Use positive methods to discipline your child. Avoid yelling at him or her or using physical punishment. Through your example, your child will see that force is not the best or only choice.