Preschool Conflict Resolution Strategies
In my mind, there are two ways in which we can support children in conflict resolution: proactive strategies and reactive strategies. Both of these are important as we teach children the art of resolving their conflicts.
As I wrote this post, it became apparent to me that both proactive and reactive problem solving deserves its own post. This will be part one of a two week series on conflict resolution.
Before I delve into these two strategies, I want to begin by saying that conflict is an inevitable part of childhood. As adults, our goal is to equip children to handle conflict in a manner that is productive and peaceful.
Teaching Preschoolers to be Proactive Problem Solvers
Proactive problem solving is a strong tool for supporting children’s skills in active conflict resolution. In my Preschool class, we use our meeting times together to talk about scenarios of conflict and actively solve them. An example of a lesson uses two puppets, Piggy and Turtle. In a hypothetical scenario that I bring to the children, Piggy has a toy that she does not want to share and Turtle comes up to her and grabs it from her. Here I model different reactions from Piggy; sometimes she hits Turtle, sometimes she cries. We pause after each one to talk about likely outcomes and brainstorm other strategies.
In my experience, the preschoolers are able to talk about what went wrong, and offer meaningful ways for how these two characters could improve in this scenario. These lessons connect with children because they model and acknowledge problems that are relevant for them. Taking ownership of the solution process also equips them with language and empowerment to solve other scenarios that come up. By trying out solutions in these hypothetical experiences, children are free to experiment with new ideas, not fearful of getting it wrong or slighting a friend.
Preschoolers Can Work Together To Find Solutions
The last step of this proactive conflict resolution is applying it to our real-life problems. When questions arise in our Preschool classroom, we pause to have a meeting so that we may all come to a shared conclusion. For example, we recently worked through the following scenario: Ben and Jamie were playing in the construction area and built a big building. When they left to go and play with puzzles, they announced that they “didn’t want anyone to touch their building or play in construction” because they wanted to work more the next day. Should Susan and Tariq be allowed to work in construction later that morning, or do they have to stay away because Ben and Jamie wanted to save their building? This is a hard question which elicited many ideas at our meeting together (the decision was that others could play and that they would agree to be careful of the already constructed building). I believe that the children’s investment and practice with proactive conflict resolution helped them hear each other’s perspective and come up with a meaningful solution.
Stay tuned next week for some examples and strategies of reactive conflict resolution from our Moorestown Preschool program.
Beginnings at MFS is the Moorestown Friends School Early Childhood Program (Preschool, Prekindergarten, and Kindergarten). The Beginnings Blog is intended as a helpful tool for parents and guardians of young children, examining important ways in which children find meaning, in their lives and in their education.
Author Garrett McVaugh is the Beginnings at MFS Half-Day Preschool Teacher. Along with his Teaching Assistant Pauline Williams, he guides some of the youngest MFS students through their first year of school. A graduate of Haverford College, Garrett has been an early childhood educator for over a decade. Prior to MFS, he was a teacher at Preschool of the Arts in Madison, WI. Prior to living in Wisconsin, Garrett spent eight years teaching at St. John’s Episcopal Preschool in Washington, DC.
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