Your children will draw you into conflicts unless you teach them to resolve things themselves.

How to Teach Children the Skills for Conflict Resolution Through Activities & Games

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

“Mommy, help! Johnny’s messing with me. Again!” Conflict is a normal part of family life -- and other environments where your child interacts with people. Teaching your child conflict resolution skills can remove you from being the main mediator at your house. If you refuse to step in every time your child has a conflict with a sibling or friend, your little one has motivation to learn these skills. The skills can also help your child succeed in life.

Avoid responding right away when your child summons you unless the fight is getting physical. Encourage the children to work it out together. Intervene only if the conflict lasts longer than 10 minutes or escalates toward a physical response. You might say, “If I have to settle this, you won’t like it. I might put you both in time-out or take whatever you are fighting over. You will do better if you can settle it yourselves. I'm setting the timer for 10 minutes. If you can't solve it before the timer goes off, you have to abide by my choice!”

Play Name Your Feelings using a feelings list with pictures, to help your toddler or preschooler identify her feelings. Ask her, “How do you feel right now? How do you think Johnny feels about this?” describe a situation and have her point to a face that shows how she would feel. Provide the name of the feeling if she doesn't know it. Alternatively, point to a face and ask her to describe a situation that would make her feel that way.

Listen carefully and ask questions about things you don’t understand, modeling solid conflict resolution skills. Use respectful language and avoid interrupting your child. Use soft tones and moderate your volume. Remind your child, “Name calling, yelling and saying mean things won’t help.” Let her take your role and practice the same skills.

Explain a win-win solution by saying, “When both of you like the solution, that’s a way to settle things so that everyone gets something he or she wants." Create a story in picture for conflict situations, such as children fighting over a toy, a child crying over a dropped ice cream cone or children standing next to broken glass. Have your child draw a card and think of a way to resolve the situation. Encourage her to consider win-win solutions as the best option.

Role-play conflict resolution using dolls, puppets and conflict scenarios. Give your child opportunities to practice skills when it isn’t an emotional situation. Use nonviolent communication techniques, such as identifying feelings, choosing to talk like a respectful and peaceful giraffe rather than an angry, hurtful jackal. Consider enrolling your child in a non-violent communication play group, if one exists in your area or start one of your own.

Items you will need

  • Timer
  • Feelings list
  • Conflict resolution cards
  • Dolls or puppets (optional)


About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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