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Helping your children learn to manage conflict

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Conflict is a fact of life. Although many people think conflict is bad, some conflict is actually necessary and good. It all depends on how a particular conflict is handled. Children, like adults, face many conflicts in their lives. Maybe someone teases a child, a best friend suddenly doesn't want to be best friends anymore, or there is disagreement over which child a book belongs to.

As you know, children also encounter conflicts at home. Most of these involve possessions, responsibilities, or privacy. They also face conflicts beyond school and home. For example, many children eventually have to deal with moral issues that challenge family rules, such as looking cool in front of friends by trying drugs. Others may be picked upon by older children in the neighborhood.

Children learn how to manage conflict in the same way they learn to do many other things--by watching what goes on around them. They learn from you, from teachers and other adults, from other children, and from television, movies and other media. How can we all help them learn the best strategies?

Here are some tips you may find helpful in your role as parent:
  • Teach your child to ask for attention constructively. Sometimes the purpose of a fight with a brother or sister is to get attention. Encourage your child to ask for attention by expressing his or her needs. Catch your child doing something right. Praise your child for doing well, rather than reprimanding her when mistakes are made.
  • Teach your child to recognize the feelings of others. You can point out when someone is happy, sad, scared, and worried. When children learn to recognize what someone else is feeling, they are better able to respond appropriately.
  • Listen first, and then help your child negotiate a solution. Acknowledge your child's feelings about a conflict before helping to work out a solution.
  • Use positive methods to discipline your child. Avoid using physical punishment and yelling. Through your example, your child will see that force is not the best or only choice.
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