At Tops Day Nurseries I have recently implemented a new concept of encouraging conflict resolution between the children in our care.
Practitioners who routinely step in to minimise or avoid conflicts between children run the risk of overlooking opportunities for social learning. Instead of always attempting to stop or avoid conflicts, our practitioners look for ‘teachable moments’ whereby they offer on the spot support for children facing challenging social situations. This involves practitioners spotting when and whether to intervene, offering support to children only where it is necessary, so that where their skills allow, they can manage conflicts themselves. This provides children with real-life, hands-on experiences from which to learn.
If conflict between children is observed, practitioners will take a neutral approach – asking ‘Do you need some help?’
Part of the strategy to encourage positive behaviour is to give the children support to find solutions to potential conflicts and solve problems.
We help young children develop social behaviour, such as resolving conflicts over sharing items, however we do allow children to try and manage the situation themselves first as this is a big part of their social learning.
We are aware that the same problem may happen over and over before skills such as sharing and turn-taking develop. In order for both the biological maturation and cognitive development to take place, children will need repeated experiences with problem solving, supported by patient adults and clear boundaries.
If a child has bitten another child, been hit or is having a tantrum, staff will be calm and patient, offering comfort to intense emotions, helping children to manage their feelings and talk about them to help resolve issues and promote understanding.
Things to say –
Do you need some help – This signals to children that they liked and valued by the adults who work with them.
I can see that you are feeling sad – is that right? – This invites children to think about how they are feeling. Some children may need longer time to process emotions. You can explore this together.
Make time to listen –
Establish ground rules to ensure that each child is listened to.
You might say……..’We will listen to you Sam, and then we will listen to you George. And then you can think about what you are going to do next.’
Ask open ended questions –
Instead of saying – ‘Take it in turns on the computer – you can both have 5 minutes each’. You could say………..
‘You have both said that you want to have a go on the computer and there isn’t enough space. What do you think we should do about it?’
This also encourages problem solving and will help children develop the skills they need to face problems in later life.