In life, conflicts play a regular and repeated role. They can begin as early as toddlerhood when you do not want to have that glass of milk offered to you by your parent/caregiver. So want do you do? Scream, cry, throw a tantrum and make a mess!
Since we are still much controlled by our feelings brain (amygdala) at that age, this reaction is partly acceptable. But as we grow older, we develop our thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) and society wise such reactions turn unacceptable – hence we need a better plan to resolve conflicts.
Conflicts at school-going age can comprise playground battles, classroom fights to at home sibling wars. The most common culprits being hunger, tiredness, jealousy, sensory overload and low self-esteem. More than the current conflict it is the previous triggers that turn out to the problem. The need behind the negative communication.
For this reason, here are some tips for you or your kids to do before we address the solving part:
Take few deep breaths
Drink a glass of water
Be in the present moment
Reflect on why are you feeling like this in your body
Locate where you are feeling it
Write, draw, listen to music or talk to a friend.
Once you’ll have done this you are in a better position to problem solve effectively.
Try these steps for teaching problem-solving for kids:
First, let’s address – why do conflicts arise? Due to difference in perspective. Perspective is the way we look at situations and conflicting viewpoints lead to fights.
But what if the aim is not winning but progressing.
To effectively solve a problem, it is essential to hear all viewpoints with respect and empathy before arriving at a viable solution.
Here are the steps you can use with your kids or they can use between themselves to work out long-lasting and peaceful solutions:
Step 1: Identify the Problem
Take any whiteboard if possible and simply write the topic to be addressed. In classrooms, it can be a blackboard or a paper and on a playground, it can be stated clearly.
Step 2: Sate your needs with respect
Each person must state their feelings about the situation with respect. Use “I Feel Statements” – they avoid blame. For example:
I feel hurt when you kick me under the desk.
I feel angry when you pull my hair.
I feel disappointed when I do not get a turn.
Step 3: Listen actively
When the other person is stating their problem everyone needs to listen. Listening to their expressions, body language and tone. It is the first step to empathy. To understand what they are feeling and putting ourselves in their shoes.
Step 4: Keep an open mind
As you listen to the other person – be curious. Ask questions on why do they have this perspective and challenge your own. Do not interrupt. This is the key to progress. Try to understand where they are coming from and open up about your viewpoint. Find similarities and investigate differences.
Step 5: Brainstorm Solutions
Once you have understood the need behind the behaviour, you are in a better position to come up with solutions. Try finding common ground.
Decide with Rock, Paper Scissors
Set a timer for turn duration
Roll a dice to decide who goes first
Roleplay to show positive versions of negative behaviour
Write an ‘instead of’ list – Replace constructive words for blaming ones
Train a sibling/friend at something you are good at and they envy you
Pause the fight to gather more evidence
Sincerely apologize and do a handshake or hug
Good honest negotiation is an integral part of communication and relationships. It helps to start early. Keeping in mind that you are respecting your own and another’s boundaries. The idea here is that one problem has many solutions. So get your creative thinking hat on!
Step 7: Pick One to Try
Finally, when you do pick a solution – keep it on a trial basis. If it works well – great otherwise go back to the whiteboard to fine-tune it.
- Our family has weekly problem-solving sessions where all members write their issue on a whiteboard and during the week. Every Sunday afternoon we follow the above-mentioned steps to address each issue and come up with viable solutions. And it works beautifully!
- Listening honestly to each person helps in making them feel seen and heard. It fulfils our basic need as human beings. And this true for kids too.
- The thinking brain fully develops in humans by 23 plus or minus years. It is like any other muscle in the body and develops faster and stronger when used more. Its development is the key to stable decisions, peaceful responses and emotional maturity.
So share these tips with your kids today, so you all can be on the road to a life filled with meaningful relationships and true happiness.