“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”Winston Churchill
Teaching kids about conflict resolution and how to solve problems peacefully is an important part of child development. Life isn’t always plain sailing and kids need to learn to be peaceful problem solvers so they can build healthy friendships and navigate the ups and downs of life.
As much as we would love to protect children from conflict and issues, if kids don’t practice dealing with problems, they will inevitably find it harder to deal with situations when life doesn’t go their way. Small hiccups become enormous sources of frustration. Silly arguments become mountains of stress and anxiety. Problem-solving and conflict resolution skills are invaluable: they empower kids to help themselves out of muddles and mixups and enable them to develop strong, positive relationships and achieve success.
Teaching kids to be peaceful problem solvers is not always easy but there are lots of strategies that you can use to help children learn to deal with conflict and find creative solutions to difficult dilemmas.
Tips for Developing Peaceful Problem Solvers
Model Empathy and Respect
Kids are sponges; they soak up our language and behaviour very quickly! They look to the adults in their lives for role models, and if we want our children to be peaceful problem solvers, then we must be a good model for that behaviour. It’s not always easy to stay calm in the face of conflict, but we can talk to our kids about why it’s important to stop and think so we can respond to people in a respectful manner. You can model empathy by showing them you are listening to their point of view when arguments arise. You can model respect by staying calm and talking to them the way you want them to talk to others.
If your child comes to you upset about a conflict they had at school, whether it’s with a child or teacher, listen to them and hear their frustrations, but don’t just rush to take their side. Make sure you ask them about the other person’s point of view, how they might be feeling, and why they may have acted in the way they did. It’s not about blaming your child; it’s about teaching empathy and compassion.
Be a Sounding Board, Not a Helicopter
One of the great things about summer camp is that, for many kids, it’s their first taste of independence and freedom. Away from their familial safety net, they are called on to problem-solve independently for the first time. At camp, they learn they can help themselves where back home they may have simply relied on adults to provide solutions. But, when they go back home, they can quickly become reliant again on parents rescuing them when they hit a roadblock. Rather than helicoptering in every time they come to you for help, develop their problem-solving skills by being a sounding board instead. Ask them to describe the situation in detail and together, brainstorm different solutions and the consequences to each course of action.
It may be tempting (and easier) to just tell them what to do or rush to their aid, but teaching them to find solutions both collaboratively and independently will be far better for them in the long run.
Show Them Problem-Solving Should Be Win-Win
Children, (younger ones especially) can be very black and white when it comes to who is right and who is wrong… namely THEY are right and they want their way! Teaching kids to be peaceful problem solvers means teaching them to think win-win and to find solutions that focus on group success. Thinking win-win doesn’t mean being a push-over, it means thinking bigger picture – beyond themselves – and choosing what’s best for everyone in the situation. As you talk about challenges and solutions, ask them questions that will focus on longer-term consequences and what will make them (and others) feel happiest in the long run.
Again highlight the importance of listening and how to be a good listener. It’s impossible to find a win-win solution if you don’t understand the other person’s perspective or what they need.
As they grow, kids will be faced with many difficult choices so it’s important to help them practise seeing beyond quick fixes and immediate personal gains.
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