Teaching Conflict Resolution Strategies

Author: Gretchen Huesmann

Self-regulate & Distinguish Emotions

Conflicts abound in today’s world. Online, at home, and in the classroom, clashes occur daily. One of the most important life skills we can teach our students is the ability to solve social conflicts independently. Once they have learned to self-regulate and distinguish emotions, children are ready to explore problem-solving strategies.

Self-Regulate and Control Emotions
Define the Problem

Start by explaining what a social conflict is in a calm small group setting. Use visuals, such as video clips, photos, or a solution card deck to help students identify the problems being presented. Discuss the emotions that can accompany each situation. Ask your students for examples from their own life. Once conflicts are understood as a problem that can be solved, solutions can be introduced.

Teach Conflict Resolution Using Solution Kits

Next, discuss the common responses to conflict. Ask, “When two friends want the same object, what do you often see them do or say?” Refer to your classroom rules to remind children of appropriate and inappropriate responses. “Think of our rule ‘Be Kind.’ Is it kind to grab a toy from a friend?” Point out that the action might solve the problem for one child, but now the other friend is sad. Use the solution cards to introduce the options available when a conflict occurs. As you discuss each choice, relate them to the situations previously mentioned. Help the children understand they often have more than one possibility for resolving a conflict. Remind them if they cannot come to a satisfactory resolution on their own, adults can help.

RolePlay Solutions

Finally, invite students to roleplay the scenarios. For example, after introducing the “trade” option, give two children each an item, such as a toy or book. Provide the verbiage needed to suggest this option, “I want a turn with that book. Can we trade?” Talk about the possible outcomes, “What if your friend declines?” As children practice the alternatives available to them, they will develop the necessary vocabulary and skills needed to solve social dilemmas independently.

Putting the Kits into Practice

Keep the solution kits accessible in the classroom, on the playground, and wherever the children spend time. Initially, you may have to prompt children to use the cards. “I see you have a problem. Can you get the solution cards and think about how you could solve it?”

Remember, if emotions are high, calming strategies are needed before solutions can be effective. Once the children are calm, give them time to find a solution. If needed, ask leading questions. For very young children, look at the cards together. Help them narrow down two or three options they could try.

Celebrate Problem Solving

Be on the lookout for students putting the solutions into practice. Praise their efforts, even if they asked for your assistance. Take a picture of students selecting and implementing a solution and share those later with the entire class. Log successes and celebrate with a class party or some other reward.

Investing the time required to introduce problem-solving strategies to your students will reap benefits beyond the classroom walls. Children equipped with the skills, tools, and knowledge to solve social conflicts today will be the problem-solvers of tomorrow. For more ideas, check out the blog on “Handling Disagreements Between Students.”

About the Author

Gretchen Huesmann is a teacher, speaker, and award-winning author. She has taught in seven U.S. states for over three decades. When not in the classroom, Gretchen enjoys mentoring and encouraging educators. She is a member of Word Weavers International and enjoys writing non-fiction for adults and children’s fiction. She and her husband of 33 years have raised 4 children and reside in Florida.
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