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Conflict Resolution for Kids: 6 Key Strategies


Discover effective conflict resolution activities for kids. Build communication skills and promote understanding in young minds through engaging ways.

As caregivers and parents, we may do all that we can to give our children a stress and conflict-free life. And yet, conflicts aren’t just an inescapable fact of life, but learning to both accept and navigate them is crucial to a child’s mental, social, and emotional development. 

Fortunately, teaching your child how to manage conflicts with care and mindfulness doesn’t need to be a solo endeavor. From social-emotional learning books to tried-and-true practices for instilling calm, opportunities for your child’s growth abound.

Dive in as we walk through the leading conflict resolution strategies for kids and why they’re vital to your and your child’s self-esteem, happiness, and resilience.

How Do You Teach Children Conflict Resolution Skills?

“Conflict resolution” is often tossed about. But what does it mean, exactly?

Put simply, it refers to the process of working through a challenge or argument until an agreement that satisfies all parties is reached. While that may sound effortless enough, you may want to bear in mind that:

  • Children are just learning to deal with big feelings as their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, and impulse control) develops.
  • Children may not develop their “theory of mind” or the capacity to note other people’s perspectives and agendas until they’re five to seven years old.
  • Younger children may not have the vocabulary needed to both name their emotions and see their way through a problem.

In other words? Without conflict resolution in place, even the smallest squabbles can trigger a meltdown or negative behaviors toward others. What’s more, conflicts, as you know, become exceedingly complex in adulthood. Teaching your child how to handle confrontations at a young age gives them a foundation they can tap into for the rest of their lives.

3 Benefits of Teaching Conflict Resolution to Kids 

Luckily, teaching your child how to de-escalate big emotions doesn’t need to be difficult, dry, or dreary. 

For one, Slumberkins’ line of conflict resolution products shows kids how to handle everything from anger to sibling rivalry (and all with a hammerhead shark at the center!). We’ll look at specific conflict resolution activities for kids below, but let’s first take a peek at the perks of teaching your young child how to restore harmony.

#1. Builds Stronger Relationships

Happy, healthy relationships are what make the world go ‘round. Building connections starts and ends with collaboration and cooperation.

For caregivers, this may be explaining the importance of sharing a toy with a younger sibling or demonstrating why it’s important for your child to communicate their needs and boundaries with a friend who dominates play activities.

#2. Fosters Empathy and Understanding

It’s safe to say that we all want our children to grow into caring, confident adults. Conflict resolution for kids paves the way for children to:

  • Accept and recognize that other people have feelings and points of view—and that some may differ from their own
  • Put themselves in another person’s shoes, which is one of the building blocks of developing empathy and understanding 
  • Acknowledge and honor other cultures, backgrounds, values, and personalities

These character traits may serve your child well throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, when everything from dealing with a difficult coworker to navigating the ups and downs of a romantic relationship are best approached from an open-minded, empathetic standpoint.

By practicing growth mindset activities and developing their social-emotional skills, kids will be better prepared for the future as they navigate the challenges of everyday life.

#3. Promoting a Sense of Responsibility 

No matter how much your child might misbehave when they’re challenged, kids usually want to please their loved ones. By showing your child that problem-solving with a friend or sibling is the responsible thing to do, the more inclined they may be to gather their feelings and find a resolution. 

6 Conflict Resolution Activities for Kids

The power of show vs. tell applies to dozens of situations, including conflict resolution strategies for kids. Indeed, according to the Director of Early Childhood Teacher Education at Hofstra University Doris Fromberg, meaningful play and other activities may spark a child’s imagination and help them merge creativity with logic. 

With that in mind, we recommend: 

#1. Role-Playing Different Scenarios 

Sometimes, it’s easier for a child to use a character or hypothetical situation in a conflict scenario to discuss their feelings than to speak about them directly.

Enter role-playing. The practice might be unique to every child and family. But one of the most successful ways to get your child to start verbalizing their needs, desires, thoughts, and feelings is through stuffed animals (like our collection of snugglers):

  • Offer your child an overview of conflict resolution
  • Ask your child to think of a past conflict or to invent one (or create one of your own if they’re stuck), such as two people who can’t agree on what movie to watch 
  • Encourage your child to think of ways to solve the disagreement and have them show the ‘characters’ act it out, complete with dialogue and body language

Why is this so effective? 

Because it gives you the opportunity to ask your child important questions, like “What do you think he feels when his sibling says they don’t want to watch the same movie?” and “Do you think he would agree to watching the movie he wants tomorrow night instead?” Meaning, of course, that you’re in a prime position to provide a lesson on the art of compromise.

#2. Storytime Discussions 

Storytime offers a similar opportunity for children to learn about others’ feelings and how to arrive at a happy medium. Our conflict resolution book allows for multiple opportunities for you to pause and ask questions, like: 

  • “What would you do?”
  • “How do you think this character feels?”
  • “Do you think she’s making the right choice here?”

These moments may do wonders in that they can teach your child to pause in the midst of intense moments too, which is key to the emotional regulation needed for healthy conflict resolution. As an added bonus, reading in and of itself cultivates empathy and understanding: Research reveals that it can help kids share in and understand the emotions of others.

#3. The Feelings Card Game

Our Creatures Full of Feelings Card Game was designed to help children recognize (and verbalize) feelings through an assortment of fun games. From “Guess that Feeling” to “Speedy Feels,” our games help children learn how to read body language, which is crucial to strengthening their ability to acknowledge others’ emotions. 

#4. The I-Statements Game

One of the biggest things that fan the flames of arguments? Accusatory statements, such as:

  • “You’re being mean!”
  • “You’re wrong.”
  • “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

These can cause the other person to grow defensive, just as it can escalate a dispute, whether it’s between you and your child or your child and their best friend. But showing your child how to own and articulate their feelings in a calm, respectful manner—such as saying “I feel hurt” or “I feel embarrassed”—sets the stage for useful, constructive conversations.

#5. Conflict Resolution Chart

Another terrific option? Using a conflict resolution chart that leverages the power of visual learning. When an argument occurs, you can point to each stage of the conflict resolution process to guide your child through a problem. 

What this chart looks like may vary from child to child and from family to family. Yet, to jumpstart your imagination, perhaps try the following with your child:

  • Acknowledge that there’s an issue
  • Encourage your child to find calm by petting a pet or going for a quick walk
  • Identify the root of the problem (after all, sometimes a dispute is about more than a sibling taking the last cookie)
  • Connect with the other person through those “I statements” and active listening
  • Search for a solution that works for both parties

#6. Problem-Solving Together

Few things can enhance the bond you share with your child like learning how to problem solve together. How this might unfold depends on your child, your family’s dynamics and values, and your child’s age, of course, but it may involve:

  • Giving your child space to process their emotions
  • Asking gentle questions that help your child label strong emotions
  • Breaking down the problem into bite-sized chunks
  • Asking your child open-ended questions on how you can solve the issue together

Demonstrating that you’re listening and attuned to their upset feelings can help a child feel safe enough to consider the issue from a non-threatening, emotionally triggering place and settle on a resolution. This will also allow them to learn how to see from different perspectives, which is a very important skill they will take with them well beyond childhood.

Conflict Resolution for Kids Can Be Fun 

Conflicts might be the opposite of fun, but teaching your child how to navigate them can be a joy for you and your child. 

Slumberkins’ collection of social-emotional learning books and toys honor the importance of helping children feel what might arise for them now and throughout life—and how to deal with even the trickiest emotions in a productive, growth-enriching way. 

At the same time, our products may help you look at conflicts differently: Not as moments to endure, but as brilliant opportunities to build a stronger and more loving and lasting connection with the apple of your eye. 


Sources: 

Community Playthings. Children and conflict in the classroom. 

https://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/children-and-conflict-in-the-classroom


North Central College. Why is conflict resolution important?

https://www.northcentralcollege.edu/news/2022/09/13/why-conflict-resolution-important


First Five Years. 3 reasons why children have big feelings.

https://www.firstfiveyears.org.au/child-development/3-reasons-why-children-have-big-feelings#


VeryWell Health. The anatomy of the prefrontal cortex. 

https://www.verywellhealth.com/prefrontal-cortex-5220699


Psychology Today. Healthy collaboartive relationships require efforts and know-how. ​​https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/relationships-intimate-and-more/202201/healthy-collaborative-relationships-require-effort-and


Child Mind Institute. Teaching kids how to deal with conflict. 

https://childmind.org/article/teaching-kids-how-to-deal-with-conflict/


Whitby. How do children learn through play? https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/how-do-children-learn-through-play


PBS Kids for Parents. Learning to resolve conflicts with role play. 

https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/learning-to-resolve-conflicts-with-role-play


Discover. How reading fiction increases empathy and encourages understanding. https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/how-reading-fiction-increases-empathy-and-encourages-understanding


VeryWell Mind. What are ‘I feel’ statements?

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-feeling-statements-425163


Whole Hearted School Counseling. 12 essential conflict resolution skills for kids: tools for peaceful problem solving. https://wholeheartedschoolcounseling.com/2023/05/05/12-conflict-resolution-skills-for-kids-helping-children-become-independent-problem-solvers/






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