Managing Disagreements

About This Module

Every parent faces the challenge of how to handle arguments between children. Do you let them sort it out themselves, or do you step-in every time? Arguments between children are a very natural part of growing up and the way your child learns to manage these disagreements now will form the basis of their conflict management approach for the rest of their life.

Children learn how to manage conflicts during the mid-childhood years. WeParent recommend starting early, teaching your child how to manage disagreements with children positively and effectively. The mid-childhood years are the perfect time to give children the skills they need to handle disagreements in a positive way, learning to negotiate to find mutually beneficial solutions for everyone.

Teaching your child to move to this approach may also require some changes from you as their parent. Once you’ve taught your child this great new way to handle their disagreements, you will no doubt find they will relate to you in this way as well. This is great, and be ready to embrace it! In an ideal world everyone in the family will adopt this approach. This really is one where the whole family can work together and tackle arguments in a far more positive way. This strategy isn’t a quick fix, it’s an approach to adopt long term, but the results are well worth it.

What You'll Learn

  • Reduce family arguments, where children lose control of their emotions and resort to shouting, hitting or get upset.

  • Know when to step in and when to let your child sort out their own disagreements.

  • Give your child the skills to resolve their own arguments constructively and positively.

  • Start your child on a path to having great conflict resolution skills which will last them a lifetime.

Psychology Fun Facts

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  • Toddlers are self-centred, and they think only from their own perspective. They lack the skills to understand the views of other people, needed to be able to cooperate. Toddlers respond best to a directive parenting approach where a parent tells a child what to do.

    From around the age of four, children are able to view the world through the eyes of other people and to recognise that other people hold views and perspectives that differ from their own. They’re able to recognise the perspective of other people, and to cooperate.

    With these new skills, children are ready to learn how to make decisions through collaboration rather than just being given commands. If parents stick to a rigid directive approach when parenting their children, their child will likely adopt this approach with their friends and siblings.

    Learning about perspectives is a key life skill for children and a building block in their development. For more information, check out WeParent’s module on Learning Perspectives.

  • From around the age of 5, children become mindful of their own actions and the reactions they cause in others. For the first time, children are able to plan how they will act in situations where they previously have just reacted.

    Choosing how they act means children can start to predict the reactions of others and act differently to obtain a better response.

    This new foresight is now at the centre of how children approach situations.

  • Once a child can recognise the perspectives of another person, they are able to learn how to cooperate with other people by behaving in ways that produce outcomes that suit both people. From around the age of 5, a child is ready to move away from an approach where a parent always provides solutions through directive parenting. Children can be taught how to cooperate and find win-win results for everyone.

  • Conflict resolution for children
    The way that children attempt to resolve conflict situations is heavily influenced by the way they see their parents resolve conflict. Children imitate their parent’s ways of resolving conflict.

  • Explain how to adapt communication with children and young people
    The method for managing disagreements WeParent recommends uses a set of skills called a collaborative decision-making approach. Children who learn the skills of collaborative decision-making are in a better position to make and keep friends, and to cooperate with their parents and other people.

    Teaching our children a suitable way to manage conflict during the mid-childhood years is especially important as what they learn at this age will be very difficult to alter later in life.

  • You can encourage your child to participate in a collaborative approach by changing your own parenting style to a collaborative one. In a collaborative approach you discuss two options with your child, rather than impose a solution on them. You encourage your child to make a choice that suits you both. This change in parenting style moves a child away from a self-centred world to a negotiated approach where two people find a solution that suit both, not one.

    If parents don’t adapt to this developing ability in their child, they are likely to start encountering power struggles that are long lasting. These power struggles emerge when a child is still in a black and white way of thinking and is unable to see two perspectives at once. These children battle with other people’s ideas that differ from their own views, and they think that a person who holds a different idea must be wrong.

    Whilst you may be able to overrule your children in the short term when faced with a power struggle, by continuing this approach you are teaching your child that overruling, or overpowering people is the best way to resolve conflict. This can cause real issues during teenage years and beyond.

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