Positive Conflict Resolution Ideas for Parents


Maranda stood in the kitchen washing dishes. She was thinking about what to make for dinner and the hundred other things on her to do list while her kids played quietly in the next room. The calm moment didn’t last long as the familiar sound of blocks falling to the ground and the children shouting at one another soon interrupted her thoughts. She wiped her hands hastily and moved toward the living room. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” she thought, “if they knew how to figure these things out themselves?”

Every parent wishes their children understood conflict resolution. With the abundance of expert (and non-expert) opinions to be found on the subject, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to help kids learn to control their own behavior. Hopefully, your interventions teach them how to make good choices, follow rules and treat others with respect.

If you are struggling to keep the peace in your house, there are a few tried and true conflict resolution basics to keep in your parenting toolbox.

  1. Giving children choices – It sounds simple, but this is one of the most important things we can do. When children have choices they learn that there are consequences to the decisions they make. They learn to take responsibility for their own behavior and they learn to use their positive personal power to influence the world around them.
  2. Using humor – It’s easy to first resort to demands or consequences when trying to get a child to do something. But sometimes the first and best line of defense is to use humor. Being playful with talking objects, reverse psychology or games is a great way to get kids on board with what you’re doing. And in the process they’re learning to follow directions and go with the flow. Let’s face it, happier kids make for much happier parents.
  3. Giving transition times – Parents often have an agenda and a schedule we’re trying to meet and we can get easily frustrated when our kids make that difficult. But children, just like adults, need time to wrap their head around the next activity: to think about it, plan for it and prepare to let go of the fun thing they’re doing. Giving kids a warning that their activity will be changing soon is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help them transition easily. It might be difficult at first, but make it a habit, and soon they’ll be ready when you say it’s time.
  4. Asking “What can I do instead?” – You want your children to learn how to make better decisions? Try empowering them to come up with solutions to a problem. Let’s say they threw a toy because they were upset. Once everyone has calmed down, having a conversation with them you might say “You were very upset and you threw the toy. What do you think you can do instead next time you’re feeling upset like that?” Allowing kids to brainstorm and come up with their own solutions is a great way to solidify their learning experience.
  5. Asking “What have you learned?” – Take learning to the next level with your children. Instead of rehashing what they did wrong, ask them what they learned from their mistakes, and even from their successes. This helps them to internalize the lesson so there’s a better chance that next time they’ll think twice before they make a decision about their behavior.