Saturday, September 13, 2008

Toddler Conflict Resolution

Some one recently posted a very good question I would like to take a moment to answer.
Q: How do I handle conflict with Little One?
A: Well, since I am presently a teacher of toddlers (10 children with myself and one wonderful assistant) I will share with you, not only how I handle conflicts with Little one at home but also how conflicts are handled in the classroom. (It was my photo of our classroom peace corner that inspired the question.)
At home: Being the youngest of three, Little One has, well, very little to get into conflicts over. He is often given what he wants, as he wants it,to be completely honest. And when he wants something he can not have, we tell him so using simple clear statements and comfort him while he expresses himself. (i.e.we listen to him scream and hope he gets over it quickly) And he usually does move on quickly because my husband and I decided years ago (with Middle Man) that we were never 'giving in' to a screaming toddler ever again. If he wants something we model for him how we want him to ask for it politely and we support him in getting it for himself (when possible) and we try and provide him with as many opportunities as possible for him to independently take care of his own needs (by preparing the environment).
At School:
Our Toddler PEACE Corner is a space for friends to go and sit and just 'be'. There are beautiful & interesting things to look, a soft pillow to sit on, dolls for playing with...
And this is how the space is used by even our youngest friends. Conflicts are not often resolved in the PEACE Corner; they are resolved as they occur usually with the help of an adult. To share an example:

Two children are interested in the same toy, they each have hold of it and are pulling and yelling or crying, neither child is willing to let go.

The teacher joins the duo and begins to calmly state her observations and ask questions:
"I can see you are both wanting this toy. Let's work together to figure out a solution/ or way to make it work. (I once worked with someone who said "Make it work" and now all I can think of is Tim Gunn!!)
State the obvious: "There are two of you and only one toy" What can we do? Then offer the desired answer: "We could take turns with the toy." or "We could use the toy together, we could SHARE" (one of my favorite words!)
Next ask to hold the toy and assure the kiddos that they will each get to hold it too. Demonstrate a way to use the toy and then how to share with a friend. Offer the toy to one of the children and say,
"I will sit by you while you play and you can show me how you two SHARE with one another."
The expectation is clear, and if possible the two children will use the item one at a time. Most likely the child waiting for his turn will become disinterested or distracted and no longer want to wait for their turn. When I see this happen I try to remember which child didn't get their 'turn' with the item and later when it is not being used I lead them to it, so that they can choose it off the shelf for them self and have their turn (If the want to of course).
Now, just like sometimes with Little One, things don't always go that smoothly, often a two year old will cry or yell or tantrum. Depending on their temperament and the time of day. Sharing just before lunch or rest is probably not going to happen.
But this is what we try to nurture, this is our best practice. If both children are still fussy or becoming aggressive, I will remove the object from the equation and distracted with something new that I have many of or a puppet. (I'm a big fan of puppets)
I could talk more on this and will in future posts. Write now Little One wants his big brother's new National Geo Kids magazine. I've gotta GO!


Anonymous said...


Would you use the same approach with two 5 year olds fighting over a toy? I never thought to let each hold it and ask them to use it together. I've always held it and walked them through finding a solution... so curious to hear your input, when you find a moment!

Evenspor said...

Thanks for the advice. I especially appreciate that you added the disclaimer at the end that it doesn't always work so that none of us expect perfect reactions all the time. :-)

Becky said...

I really appreciate you writing a post on this! Do you have any favorite parenting book(s) you would recommend as well?

asafshani said...

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