Parent-child Interaction: Dealing with Peer Conflict

Conflicts inevitably evolve as children get older. Once upon a time, the biggest conflict in your child’s life may have been a simple fight over naptime. Upon entering school, a new slew of issues may arise. The following strategies are great ways to help your children deal with peer issues:

• Dealing with emotions. As children get older, they experience brand new emotions (anger, jealousy, frustration). Discuss emotions with your child and brainstorm strategies to deal with these new emotions. Model appropriate coping mechanisms such as counting to 10 or taking a deep breath. Communicate that yelling or physically hurting does not help resolve conflict.

• Talk it out. When your child seems to be upset after school or a play date, ask your child to explain the situation. Although it may be difficult, stay neutral during the story. Understanding both sides of the problem will help to determine the appropriate ways to approach the situation. Before offering any positive conflict solutions, wait until your child is calm.

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• Roleplay. Role-playing is a great way to practice conflict resolution. Come up with some phrases for your child to practice saying. Express the value of using nice words to resolve conflict. Encourage them to communicate how they feel and what they want to happen, instead of dwelling on the problem or casting blame. Urge them to use phrases that begin with “I” instead of “yo”.

• Learn to listen. The best way to understand the other side of a conflict is to listen. Teaching listening skills at an early age will improve your child’s ability to sympathize with others. Eventually they will understand the value of compromise and realize they wont always get what they had in mind.

• Be Fair. Communicating the meaning of being fair and sharing to young children can be challenging. In order for your child to want to share, they need to appreciate the value of the act. Teaching a child the value of sharing can be done through books, turn-taking games, and modeling. Once your child learns that sharing can be fun, many conflicts may be avoided.

• Walk away. Convey that is acceptable to walk away from a situation. It is best to approach a trusted adult if the situation is getting out of control. As the old saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

• Reward positive efforts. Be sure to verbally encourage all of your child’s efforts of dealing with conflict. These include controlling emotions, using kind words, sharing, and approaching situations. The more reinforcement your child receives, the more likely they will continue acting in a positive manner.

If your child is not yet in school, host regular play dates to prepare your child for social interactions they will encounter at school. Dealing with peer conflict is not an innate skill, it is something that needs to be taught and reiterated many times. If you feel your child is having issues with peers at school, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy to talk with our licensed social worker.  

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Resources:

Burnett, C. (n.d.). 8 Tips for Helping Children Learn to Resolve Conflict. Retrieved January 03, 2017, from http://childhood101.com/2014/06/8-tips-for-helping-your-child-resolve-conflict-and-be-a-good-friend/