How to Help Your Children Resolve Friendship Disputes: 6 Steps
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Teach your child to cooperate rather than compete with friends.


You hosted your child's latest play date but felt more like a referee than a mom. Should you invest in a whistle and a striped shirt before the next get-together? Relax. It will get better. When they were 2, your daughter and her playmate sat together yet did their own thing, but now they're interacting. Friendships help children learn trust, communication and cooperation. Coach your preschooler as she learns to get along with friends.

Steps

  1. 1
    Set an example. Kids love to mimic their parents. Your preschooler will be listening as you interact with other adults and family members. Telling off the guy in the "eight items or less" line at the grocery store because he has 10 items probably won't work in your favor. Your child needs consistent modeling of peaceful conflict resolution. If you automatically say "please" and "thank you," these words will become second nature to your children.
  2. 2
    Role-play potential situations. Simply telling your little one to "play fair" is like asking her to find the square root of 16 – she just won't get it. Preschoolers love the world of pretend. Act the role of an upset friend who wants the Bitty Baby doll your child has. How will your child react? Suggest that she get her Raggedy Ann doll and take turns trading back and forth.
  3. 3
    Allow disagreements. Even very young children need to flex their problem-solving muscles. Stay close at hand -- you don't want Johnny’s superhero losing any body parts -- but don't immediately run to the rescue. Preschoolers can blow off steam and get over it quickly. If the conflict escalates, offer alternatives or change the focus: "Maybe you should put away the superhero and build a tower with your blocks."
  4. 4
    Suggest using words rather than aggressive actions like hitting or pushing. When your child is upset with a friend, intervene and ask them to talk about it. "Did it hurt when Mary pulled your hair?" "Mary, why did you do that?" Praise your little angel when you overhear her telling a friend, "That's okay you tore my paper. I have another one."
  5. 5
    Help your child understand her friend's point of view. Remind her, "You only have one of those cool airplanes. Sam will feel left out if he doesn't have one to play with too. Maybe you could play with your boats. He loves those and you have two of them." When your preschooler doesn't want her friend to draw with her new chalk, remind her how sad she was when Jimmy wouldn't let her touch his new coloring book.
  6. 6
    Guide your upset little one toward a calmer state of mind. Even if you're ready to lose it, make sure your voice and manner are unruffled so the situation doesn't escalate. Tell her to take deep breaths. If she's crying, give her a tissue. Sometimes it's best to remove your child from her playmates until she gains composure. Talk about ways to handle the situation. Hey, she may even surprise you and want to apologize to her little buddy. With enough practice, she will learn to calm herself.

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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