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It’s every parent’s instinct to rescue children from conflict - or to advise them to avoid it altogether. The thought of our kids being bullied is just too much to bear. But teaching youngsters problem-solving skills and equipping them to handle conflict means they can face an inevitable part of every relationship. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes people are unfair to us – and even downright nasty.
Conflict is part of life. And we’re not just talking about how to deal with bullies, which is taught in many schools. We’re talking conflict resolution. For kids this is a vital skill as they head into adulthood. And showing they can handle aggressive behaviour without fear can also prove one of the best strategies to overcome bullying.
Without learning how to face up to difficult situations, children are likely to feel overwhelmed when conflict occurs, and they could even miss out on valuable relationships. By starting small, with strategies for managing conflict in the classroom, and in the playground, they can learn how to move past a bad situation, or accept a difference of opinion without it escalating into a full-on fight.
Here are the steps you can take them through:
Take a breath
Of course, teaching kids about bullying is important. But first, it’s important to help them understand the difference between bullying and a simple clash of personalities. If it’s possible to step back and take time to calm down, this can be helpful. Sometimes a fight can be avoided if we find the space to think about it and discuss solutions with others, before attempting to solve the problem.
Understand the issue
Help your child/children to state the problem. Encourage honesty in admitting their role in what happened. And if relevant they should…
If discussion leads them to conclude they made a mistake, help them communicate that to the person involved. Writing something down might be a good start, if they feel embarrassed or upset. This doesn’t have to mean taking the full blame for a situation, but accepting their part in it. An apology should communicate regret, responsibility and remedy.
This is where adults may be tempted to resolve things for youngsters. Big mistake. Instead, encourage them to come up with their own outcomes to make things better, or discuss a solution with the person they’ve fallen out with. What would make both sides feel better?
If you’ve been able to leave the children to discuss their issues, be sure to check in on how they’re getting along, and if the solution is working. If the strategy has failed, maybe they need to take a break from one another and get some distance from the issue. But stress that they still need to be kind and respectful to one another if they’re likely to be in each other’s company (in a classroom or at camp, for example).
The internet can be a great source of help and advice, and this How Big Is My Problem poster is a great teaching tool, to help youngsters understand the difference between issues they can sort out themselves, and ones where an adult’s help is required.
Depending on the age of the child, it’s always worth encouraging them to attempt to resolve things themselves – if they feel able to.
If you sense a situation has gone beyond conflict, and you need tips to prevent bullying, then check out some advice from the experts here.
How can we stop bullying? Again, by arming our children with the right tools to stand up to a conflict situation and show they will not be devalued by the actions of another. As well as tips on how to stop bullying online, it is always wise to make all adults involved with the children aware of the situation from an early stage (teachers, parents, childminders, etc), and work with them to find a swift resolution.
We encourage happy and well-rounded children at Barracudas camps. Find out more details about our camps here.