Conflict Resolution For Children
Conflict resolution for children is a preventative for school and domestic violence. This article provides simple yet effective ways in which to teach these skills.
Teaching children appropriate conflict resolution skills is a valuable asset in their early efforts to navigate the uncharted terrain of interpersonal relationships. Providing a child with effective means of resolving conflict gives the child the ability to resolve or diffuse a situation before it becomes out of control or dangerous. It also provides a solid foundation on which to build the relationships of adulthood. A contributing factor to incidents of domestic violence, for example, is an inability to resolve conflict in a healthy and productive manner.
Effective conflict resolution is built upon strong communication skills. Encouraging children to describe and discuss their feelings helps them to establish a sense of control over those powerful emotions that, at times, threaten to overwhelm. These types of discussions can serve as a productive outlet for these kind of feelings.
It is important to remember, as well as to teach, that listening is a large part of communication. It is a demonstration of respect and shows a desire to connect and really understand another's point of view. Mirroring is a simple, helpful technique that parents can employ and can easily teach their children to use. This technique can further develop listening skills and promote mutual understanding.
What mirroring consists of, in its most elemental form, is listening and paraphrasing. During the discussion, the person whose turn it is to listen does so attentively. When the speaker has finished, the listener then restates what has been heard. This process serves two purposes. The listener demonstrates to the speaker that what has been said has been both heard and understood. It also presents an opportunity for the speaker to hear what the listener believes to have been said and to clarify any miscommunications that may have occurred. The value of this technique in both basic communication skills and in conflict resolution is that it ensures, through the restatement of what is heard, that the listener is indeed listening to the speaker, rather than focusing on how he or she plans to respond.
Empathy and the ability to compromise also relate to conflict resolution. Both are based solidly on an internalized set of values, and are developed and put into practice most efficiently through the utilization of skilled communication.
In addition to the moral guidance children receive from parents, there is a continuous flow of influence from other sources. Therefore, if parental influence over developing values systems is to remain strong, there should be frequent and open communication between parents and children about such issues. Children should be encouraged to think about and to articulate their personal values and beliefs, as opposed to merely parroting those of their parents. It is the thinking, the individual cognitive processing, that makes a given value one's own. The articulation and discussion of values strengthens them and keeps them close to the surface. Furthermore, it is through such conversation that parents are able to be familiar with and to continue to positively influence the moral development of their children.
Empathy is important to conflict resolution in that it is through empathy that one is better able to have a real connection to the thoughts and feelings of others, recognizing them to be similar in depth and nature to one's own. A better understanding of the thoughts and motivations of others is certainly conducive to both the ability to compromise and to conflict resolution in general.
It could be said that compromise is the cornerstone of successful conflict resolution. Being willing to consider compromise demonstrates a focus on an equitable outcome to a conflict rather than on an overwhelming need to be right. When teaching children about compromise, it is important to emphasize what is to be nonnegotiable - one's own basic values.
Also necessary to conflict resolution are some basic rules of conduct. Name calling is never acceptable. Focus on the topic at hand, do not bring in past or unrelated issues. If the other person involved in the conflict tries to do so, politely and firmly suggest that that issue be dealt with after the one at hand has been laid to rest. Children should also be encouraged to keep an open mind, with the exception of conflicts revolving around core values, and to listen carefully to other points of view. They should also know that it is possible to simply agree to disagree.
Another important skill relating to conflict resolution that should be taught to children, in this era of increased violence among youth, is that of being able to monitor the tension level of a situation. If, despite their best efforts at maintaining a controlled and productive dialogue, the other party involved becomes increasingly more agitated, it is best to postpone further discussion until tempers have calmed.
The ability to resolve conflict in a productive and healthy manner is important to quality of life, both during childhood and adulthood. Parents who utilize these techniques in resolving their own conflicts will teach their children that occasional conflicts are a normal part of life, and when handled properly, relationships will be able to withstand them, perhaps even becoming stronger through their resolution.