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297 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Conflicts Between Children: The Attitude, Words, and Feelings of the Adult

Conflicts Between Children: The Attitude, Words, and Feelings of the Adult

By Emmy Gay, from a lecture given by Andrea Szőke, Pikler House Daycare Director

Andrea Szőke began her journey as a caregiver many years ago, progressed to a pedagogue, and is now the director of the daycare at the Pikler House.

Handling Emotions During Child Conflicts

It’s natural to feel strong emotions when witnessing children in conflict. However, entering the situation with strong emotions can escalate the conflict. The role of the adult in these situations is crucial. How we intervene not only resolves the immediate issue but also shapes future behavior patterns in children.

Taking a Breath Before Intervening

New caregivers often want to rush in to prevent potential harm. At the Pikler House they always advise them to take a breath before moving in. Children learn a lot by observing adults and will imitate their behavior. Our actions and reactions have a significant impact on their future behavior, making it essential to intervene thoughtfully and authentically.

Consistency in Principles and Actions

Conflicts are inevitable, but once they occur, it’s important to let go and focus on understanding the child’s intentions. Knowing the background and understanding the reasons behind a child’s involvement in a conflict can help adults approach the situation without anger.

Understanding Child Behavior

Children often act out not to annoy adults but because they struggle with self-control. Recognizing this helps caregivers remain calm and patient. Typical times for conflict include when a child’s needs are unmet, such as during hunger, tiredness, or transitions. Fear of losing possessions or lack of space for play can also trigger conflicts.

Support Among Colleagues

In group settings, it’s important for colleagues to support each other by sharing strategies for managing conflicts. Speaking gently without judgment, getting on the child’s level, and providing clear, non-punitive guidance can help children learn to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Communicating with Children During Conflicts

When addressing a child who takes a toy from another, consider these approaches:

  1. Punitive Statement: “He had that toy first, and I am going to give it back to him.”
  • This communicates that the caregiver is in charge.
  1. Trusting Statement: “It looks like he had it first and wants it back.”
  • This empowers children to resolve the issue themselves.

For dangerous behavior, it’s important to state clearly that such actions are not allowed, without judgment or anger.

Final Thoughts

Understanding and managing conflicts between children with compassion and consistency is essential for healthy development. By approaching conflicts thoughtfully, caregivers can help children learn valuable social skills and build a supportive, respectful environment.