In order to understand conflict--and to truly make a long term positive impact--I need to take a step back and think about the role that confidence plays in this argument.
Confidence (and the lack thereof) is a major determinant in whether this conflict is one that increases in intensity, or if it becomes one that the kids can learn and grow from. The child who screams out does not have confidence that the other child is simply playing a game or is going to return the toy. They may not have confidence in their own ability to play with the toy correctly and most importantly, they don't have confidence in themselves that they know how to handle the situation correctly. That may seem like a lot to ask of a child, but conflict management is a learned skill that can be gained early on in life. However, that child is not the only one who needs to build self-confidence in order to resolve the conflict. The other child involved may have taken the toy for a number of reasons, possibly because they wanted to play with the other child or they specifically wanted to play with the toy. Maybe they have not had much luck with sharing toys in the past and don't have the practice asking to share. They need the opportunity to experience that shared conflict resolution.
As educators, we are guides for our students, and we also need to experience shared conflict resolution so we can make it more natural for our students in the future. There are a few steps that we can take to make sure to build our children's confidence when it comes to conflict resolution:
- Plan ahead. Set up the physical setting as a safe place to play, anticipating any obstacles and creating preemptive fixes for them. Play space too small? Do what you can to expand it or remove objects that make it cluttered.
- Clear rules. Create welcoming but structured rules, and get input from the kids as you do. Is there a really popular toy that leads to arguments often? Set rules for how to play with it, or time limits on how long each child can play.
- Teach. Practice how and when to say excuse me and I'm sorry. If your kids know what to do in a conflict, they can practice saying these words and exploring a resolution when conflicts come up.
- Stand by. Don't jump on every conflict that comes up, give the kids time to use the tools you taught. Only intervene if necessary and still then encourage them to resolve it.
The more practice the kids have in using their own voice to negotiate conflicts, the greater skills they will have in conflict resolution and confidence in their ability to resolve what comes up.