The preschool years are the times of developing opinions, preferences, and wanting to exert control. So how do we, as caregivers, help teach preschoolers conflict resolution?
Role Model To Preschoolers Conflict Resolution
Just like with younger children, preschoolers learn from the example that we as adults set for them. By showing them how we use our words, express our feelings, and make compromises, we are helping these children to be able to do the same. Giving them them the tools to help them talk effectively to one another is a great first step.
Pause Before Stepping In
Unless a conflict between two children immediately jumps into a situation that requires adult intervention, give the children a moment. See if they are able to work out their differences on their own. Giving children the opportunity for autonomy tells them that we have confidence in their ability to resolve their own conflicts. Of course, we know that most of the time, they will still need some support at this age. If the situation isn’t quickly resolved, now is the time to step in.
Be a Mediator During Preschoolers Conflict Resolution
The easy thing to do when two children are engaged in a conflict is to step in and resolve the situation. However, this approach doesn’t help them to navigate future problems on their own. Teaching preschoolers conflict resolution requires the adult to take on the role of a mediator and help the children solve the problem. The best first step is asking each child independently to tell the other child (not you!) what they are upset about. For instance, here are a few phrases that you can use to help move the conversation along:
“Can you tell him why you are upset?”
“How do you think that made him feel?”
“What could you do to make him feel better?”
“What ideas do you have to help fix this?”
Using open ended questions allows the children to use their critical thinking skills and really dig deep to resolve the problem on their own. Of course, this takes practice, time and support so it’s important to keep expectations realistic.
Provide Guidance as Needed
Not every instance of conflict will be able to be resolved by children at this age. There will certainly be times when emotions run high, and children won’t be in a position to provide problem-solving ideas. As parents and caregivers, it is our job to differentiate between when children are ready and able to help resolve their own conflicts and when we need to step in and show preschoolers conflict resolution by offering suggestions.
Finally, while it is certainly easier said than done, being patient while children work through their disagreements is an important part of the road to learning conflict resolution skills. Through time and practice preschool aged children will learn to work through disagreements with less and less direct adult intervention.
Preschoolers’ conflict resolution skills will help them feel more confident and learn to work productively with peers in all aspects of life. Learn about toddler conflict resolution here!
About The Author
Sarah Proctor has worked with young children for over 25 years as a teacher, childcare director, nanny, and mom of two girls. She has her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from UMass Amherst. In addition, Sarah has her Director 2 certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.