A crucial piece for the overall wellbeing of any kid is the quality of their peer relationships. But, what happens when a kid experiences conflict or disagreement between friends? Helping them build the critical skills of conflict resolution will enable them to build strong bonds. Without strong relationships, research shows that kids are more likely to engage in dangerous, risky behaviors in order to find the acceptance they crave.
Conflict is awkward. Uncomfortable. Distressing. Overwhelming. Vulnerable. And, on the other side of it is all the good stuff — connection, intimacy, commitment, support, and love.
We want every kid to have every opportunity to thrive in life and live a life that’s rich, deep, and filled with love. So, we have to teach kids how to resolve conflict. It’s not something that you just pick up. It has to be deliberately modeled, taught, and affirmed. By us, the adults in their lives.
Here are 3 principles for conflict resolution we think you’ll find useful. Practice them yourself and share with your kids and students.
1. Recognize there’s conflict:
The first step to resolving conflict is actually recognizing that there’s a break in the relationship. This part is subtle.
We’re always tempted to act like or convince ourselves that nothing’s really wrong. But, the more self-aware and honest we become, the more we’re able to recognize when something’s been damaged and needs repair.
2. Take accountability and own your part:
It’s pretty rare for a conflict to be completely one-sided. In fact, 98% of the time it takes two to tango. For whatever reason you contributed to the disagreement, hurt feelings, or misunderstanding — own it.
3. Commit to repairing:
Once everyone has had the chance to share their feelings and perspective, talk through ways to repair the relationship and avoid repeating the same patterns.
It might be an apology and a hug. It might look like a commitment to show up on time or be more honest with each other earlier. It might even be taking some space for a while to allow yourselves some time to work through your feelings. Or, perhaps, this is the time to shift the dynamics of the friendship.
It’s difficult to imagine someone going through life and building authentic, supportive relationships, the kind that everyone wants and everyone needs in order to thrive, without learning how to practice conflict resolution. What are the other options? Shallow friendships where we avoid getting too close? Shutting down friendships and moving on when things get uncomfortable or awkward?
Resolving conflict isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not easy, it’s incredibly vulnerable, but on the other side of a conflict is a deeper connection, stronger commitment, and a more meaningful life. It’s worth it. We have to teach our kids how to resolve conflict.
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