Have you ever asked yourself if conflicts are good or bad? We see our children get into conflicts. We want to avoid them, but should we? It has always been a debate in my mind. I knew for certain that the interests of two people intersect because they have their own opinions and thoughts, so conflicts happen all the time. Today, I have concluded for myself that conflicts are a necessary part of human life and child development. I have decided that it is a good thing.
Phew! Problem solved, right? Wrong. Turns out that it wasn’t easy for me to accept this and put it into action. I was so used to avoiding conflicts that it took a lot of effort to change my thoughts and actions. My new motto is: “Every conflict is a door to new opportunities and ideas.”
Do we have to resolve conflicts fairly? What is fair for an adult? What is fair for a child? These questions rushed through my mind one day when I was playing with a group of four-year-old children in the yard.
Casey and Lu were in the sandbox together. Lu said to Teacher Kira, “Casey took my pin!” Casey heard this statement. Teacher Kira got closer to the boys. Casey quickly looked at Lu and climbed up the climbing structure. From the top, Casey threw the pin into the rubber pellets under the swings.
Teacher Kira’s heart skipped a beat. She thought to herself, “We won’t be able to find this pin anymore. Is Lu going to be very upset? How is it going to affect the boys’ relationship?”
Lu said, “I saw where it landed. I will pick it up.” Lu picked it up.
Casey climbed down and approached Lu. Lu explained, “See Casey, there are two pieces of this pin that go like this…”
Casey grabbed the small piece of the pin from Lu’s hands and quickly placed it into his pocket. Teacher Kira was thinking whether she should set a limit and help Lu gain his pin back or if she should observe more. Then, Lu said, “I wonder if Casey is going to give it back to me.” This composed question gave Teacher Kira a clue that she could wait and not intervene yet. Lu made a gentle attempt to gain back his pin by reaching towards Casey’s pocket. Casey threw it into the rubber pellets.
Teacher Kira thought to herself, “Oh, this time the pin is lost…” However, Lu found it and picked it up. Lu said, “I wonder where I should keep my pin. Maybe it will be safe in this wooden box.” So Lu placed his pin into the wooden box.
Casey changed his mind about getting the pin from Lu. Casey and Lu went to play on the climbing structure. The conflict was resolved without Teacher Kira’s intervention.
If the adult were to have taken the pin from Casey and given it to Lu, would Lu have learned how to protect himself? Would he have gained self confidence? Would Casey have learned not to take another persons’ belongings? These are questions that we try to keep in mind while we guide our children.
How much should we intervene? Should we avoid pushing our adult perspective on the child? It is always a challenge to decide if and when we should intervene, and how to keep a balance between helping the children safely resolve the conflict and stepping back to allow them to problem solve.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!
Photo credit (boy in green): Elena Ivanova