CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Family Resources for At-Home Learning: Conflict Resolution

By Holly Delgado | March 23, 2020

Stop it!” “That’s mine!” “I was using it first!” “I don’t want to do that!” “MOM!!

Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone! All around us, families are attempting to create new daily routines, play is limited to smaller areas with the same toys as yesterday, and our peers have narrowed to immediate family members. The stress that comes along with finding a new normal can cause emotions to run high, children’s behaviors to shift, and conflicts to rise.

Anger, anxiety, disappointment, and sadness are very real, very appropriate feelings. Young children have not yet learned how to navigate and cope with these feelings in appropriate ways. Instead, they might yell, hit, kick, or lash out at a sibling. Fortunately, there are strategies we can use to support our children through these emotional times and help them gain problem-solving skills in the process.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

  1. Approach your children and the situation calmly. Be aware of your body language; it says a lot about your intentions and your feelings. Strive to remain neutral in order to see all points of view. Stop any hurtful behavior with statements like, “Hitting needs to stop” or, if needed, use an ‘I’ statement such as, “I am angry right now because hitting hurts” and delay the problem-solving process until you are able to remain neutral.
  2. Acknowledge feelings. Use simple descriptive words that reflect the intensity of your child’s emotions. For example, you might say, “You are really, really angry.” This helps children ‘let go’ of their feelings and is an important step that must occur in order for children to begin to think clearly about the problem.
  3. Gather Information. Let your children know you are going to listen to each of them. Ask them to tell you what happened; stay focused on the concrete actions and materials that are a part of the problem. Listen carefully for details children are describing, as they are the key to finding a solution.
  4. Restate the problem. Use the details children have described to restate the problem and clarify any issues. Reframe hurtful language as needed. For example, if a child says to a sibling, “You can’t play ‘cause I hate you,” you might reframe the child’s feelings by stating “You are very angry and want to play alone.” Check with children to see if they agree that you have correctly identified the problem.
  5. Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together. Respect and explore all of the ideas, even if they seem unrealistic, considering how they might work. Help children think through the specifics of a potential solution. A statement such as “We can share” will need to be broken down further with a follow-up statement, for example, “Tell me what sharing would look like.” Ensure all children engaged in the problem-solving process agree with the solution and draw attention to the fact that they solved the problem together.
  6. Be prepared to give follow-up support. Children may need help implementing the solution, or difficulties may arise because one child is still angry and needs additional acknowledgement. Check back in with each child, especially those children who were very upset, to ensure the problem has been solved.

Remember, it’s natural for both adults and children to experience intense feelings during this time of uncertainty; for many of us, our lives have been flipped upside down. How we approach these situations is up to us. Remember, children will feed off of our sense of calm, our ability to problem-solve, and our strength to persevere.

Family Activities Packet

The HighScope and COR Advantage teams have created a packet of activity ideas for your second week. Activities are included for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children. Please watch for this packet of activity ideas to come out each week that children are home from school.

Download: Family Activities Packet 2 (PDF – English)

Download: Family Activities Packet 2 (PDF – Spanish)

Adapted from You Can’t Come to My Birthday Party! Conflict Resolution with Young Children, 2nd Ed., by Betsy Evans, M. Ed.

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About COR Advantage

COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Holly Delgado

Holly is an Early Childhood and Assessment Liaison as well as a former Demonstration Preschool teacher at HighScope Educational Research Foundation. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Central Michigan and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Northeastern Illinois. She has spent more than 10 years working in self-contained early childhood special education classrooms, inclusive classrooms, and home-based environments for children ages birth to five. She is a certified teacher in Michigan and Illinois and has experience as an education administrator for Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Holly is currently an adjunct professor of Early Childhood Education at Madonna University.