• Early Years Toolkit

How can children resolve their own conflicts?

Conflict among young children is inevitable. At this age, children are developing the skills for delayed gratification and to control impulses. As conflicts can come in many different forms we must be mindful of the fact that this is a learning process and is not a case of your child being ‘terrible at sharing’.

A conflict scenario with a little one, is likely to have begun as an impulsive action, from either party. When we act on impulse our initial reactions come from the lower part of our brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for many of our fight and flight reactions. A rush of signals are sent upstairs to the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that, among other things, is responsible for planning, rational thinking and impulse control.

In a brain with well-formed connections in the pre frontal cortex, we are able to control the impulsive feelings we have. We are not able to get rid of the feelings, but we are able to control how we react to them. For instance, we might feel so nervous in a job interview that we just want to leg it out of the room but our prefrontal cortex rationalises and thinks that, on balance, you probably shouldn’t do that.

In a conflict between to young children, the quickest way to deal with this is to tell Tommy to give the train back to Jack and offer some sort of consequence if he does it again, like time-out etc. Of course, though, Tommy will do it again as soon as anyone else has it. He’s not learnt why he shouldn’t snatch. And here in lies the problem - consequences are not a good teaching tool if you want long term change.

Fundamentally, for early years children to learn well and lower the need for you to keep repeating the same lessons, they need to be the ones coming up with the solutions. Your role as the grown up is to guide conversation that way.

So we have made 5 simple steps for you to give your children the tools to control their impulses and resolve their own conflicts in future. Just click the picture below!