|Helping Kids Resolve Conflict
|Credit: These photographs are from Corel Print Office, 1998,
Successful resolution of conflict among group members is more likely to
occur when the group leader is aware of certain key concepts. The following section will
outline various strategies that a leader might use in helping kids resolve conflict
Some kids may learn how to resolve conflict just by watching a sensitive leader who
handles conflict successfully. Other kids may need subtle guidance or other direct
techniques for learning those skills.
Expectations of Childrens Abilities
Social skills such as conflict resolution must be
learned, just like physical skills must be learned. We must remember that kids -- and even
adolescents -- are still learning about how to interact with each other and may need
sensitive guidance from a leader who has had more experience getting along with others.
Kids develop at different rates, but a
childs age may help you know their general capabilities. Some behaviors may be quite
appropriate for younger children but inappropriate for older youth. Very young children
who are not yet proficient in expressing themselves verbally might not be able to
compromise with another person very well. They may not have much control over their
emotions yet and may need a leader to solve the problem for them. Older kids may just need
you to remind them of better ways to resolve problems by offering suggestions and letting
the kids come up with the solutions. As you continue this lesson, click back often to Lesson 1, "How Youth Develop" to see which
strategies may work best for the age groups you are working with.
So what are some effective ways to resolve conflict? The Human Development Training
Institute has outlined several effective and less effective techniques for dealing with
conflict. Leaders should be on the watch for kids who use less effective strategies of
dealing with conflict and help them learn some better ways. Several of the effective
strategies may be used together.
(Fighting or being mean)
the other person physically or verbally. (Also, see the section on Dealing with Aggression.)
"I am not."
"Then prove it, you wimp."
"Thats it, you creep."
"Ow! Stop shoving, youre hurting my arm."
"Youre the wimp."
young person gives up and retreats from the situation when he or she should have worked it
Lana was fixing a flag to a flagpole another girl in the group grabbed the pole with a
jerk and said, "This is my flag project! I always work on this; how come youre
doing it?" Lana said, "Fine, do it then; you always get your way anyway.
adults as a means to hurt the other person by getting him or her in trouble with the
adult. Tattling is different from Soliciting Intervention (discussed below) because the
childs primary intent is to get back at the other person.
splashed Sam right in the face. After coughing and wiping his eyes, Sam swam to the group
leader and said, "Jake splashed me and keeps trying to drown me." While the
leader was talking to Jake about it, Sam made faces at Jake and mouthed "ha ha ha ha
Strategies for Resolving Conflict
Not only will these strategies help kids resolve conflict successfully, but they may
also help the leader resolve conflict he or she may have with the kids. Many of these
strategies seem common sense, and they are meant to be simple. The hardest part may be
just recalling a good strategy in the moment of conflict. Think back to the last incidence
of conflict you dealt with. How was it resolved? Could it have been resolved differently
or more successfully? As you read the list, try to imagine how each of these methods might
have worked in that situation.
More Effective Strategies
and leaders listen to the others points of view and discuss which position might be
just think it would be best to have the clean-up project in the morning when its
still cool outside."
"That is a
good point, but we might have more people show up if we have it in the afternoon after
everyone wakes up.
"How many do you know will be able to make it
halfway -- both parties agree to sacrifice something in order to resolve the conflict.
it here," Linda yelled, youve had it forever and its my turn."
"No way -- I just barely got it," Sarah
The leader said, "Sarah, why dont you
let Linda hold the puppy, and you can still pet it."
kids get what they want by splitting the time evenly.
got here first," Dave screamed.
because you got a head start; its not fair," replied Merrick." After a
minute of wrestling, Dave decided, "Why dont I swing 30 times, and then you can
swing for 30 swings? "Okay, that sounds fair.
group member or leader shows that he or she understands the other persons wishes.
fouled me -- it was obvious."
right, whatever, I was just going for the ball.
"You are such a baby."
The leader walks over and suggests that they make
sure each understands what the other person is trying to say.
"So you are saying that I cant reach
around your side like this without getting a foul?"
"No, I mean. . ."
person tells his or her position without attacking the other person. The young person
tries to keep emotions from getting out of control.
on Brandon, its your turn to recite the oath."
"I dont want to."
"I just dont"
"Nobody will make fun of you or anything.
Weve all messed up doing it."
"Well, I dont really know it all the
"Oh, okay no big deal, I can go up there with
you and help if you want."
"Okay, that wont be so bad."
the person you are sorry. Not necessarily admitting that you were wrong, just showing that
you care about the other person. This may help other strategies to work.
sorry we got into a fight. Ill try not to get so defensive next time. Tell me again
why you didnt want to work on the boat this time
someone who isnt involved in the conflict to help sort out the problem and come to a
solution. (The intent is not to get the other person in trouble, but to have an adult help
work it out.)
cant do it either," Mandy said, "because I wanted to go to the fair with
"Well you have to because Im
going on a date."
"No, you cant, its your turn,
"Why dont we ask Ms. Jacobs what she
thinks we ought to do. She is always fair."
"Okay. Hey Ms. Jacobs, could you come here for
(Now would be a good time for the leader to
offer some of the other strategies for them to resolve the conflict.)
a time out. Waiting until later to try to resolve the conflict. (This may help the kids or
even volunteers to settle down and reflect on the problem without being so emotionally
stop goofing around; you need to get these necklaces finished
Debby, you are getting
beads all over!"
The leader realizes
that he is beginning to feel agitated and is acting a little short with the kids.
"Okay, why dont we finish the necklaces
next time. Anyone up for a game of 'steal the flag'?"
kids to forget about the conflict by focusing their attention on some other interesting
activity. (Especially useful for young kids with shorter attention spans, and when the
conflict doesnt need a lot of discussion.)
step back from the river, I dont want you falling in."
"Im not that close, its no big deal."
"Hey Tony, come look at this frog over
"Wow, cool. Where?"
"Right over here in these bushes."
negative emotions by looking at the brighter side of the situation. Its amazing how
quickly a mood can change with some humor.
on Dina, you are so slow."
hurrying, Ive just got to finish this letter to my Mom."
"I know, Ill ask my mom to send a horse
in the mail -- then you wont be bored.
"A horse? "
"Yeah, a big horse trotting into camp with a
giant stamp on its forehead. It would be wrapped in a giant envelope, too. "
"Ha! Yeah, put that in the letter."
a coin or drawing straws.
Katie gets to be team captain; tails, Seth gets to."
together to meet the needs of both parties.
dont want to fight, so I want you to have the canoe. Ill just go a little
"Really? You mean it?
Thanks, I wont be gone too long."
Adapted from: Palomares, U. et al., (1975). A
curriculum on conflict management. U.S.A.
Remind yourself of a few of these strategies the
next time you meet with your group. Try to use them some time during the meeting. When you
get home, think about if they worked or not, and if there are any other strategies on the
list that might have also worked or worked better than the ones you used.
Part 3 of this lesson
will explain more about why kids misbehave and what you can do about it. Click here to return to the Lesson 4 start page.