Watching your children in conflict is hard. It can cause you to feel anxiety and fear. No one wants to have their children deal with issues with arguing or frustration. Our first instinct is to jump in and take care of the situation. But is that always the best move? Part of growing up is learning how to work through arguments and frustrating situations. They can’t do that if we constantly fix it for them. Sometimes it is better to make sure the situation and the environment is safe and then let them figure it out on their own.
While playing with a yoga ball a couple children decided to throw it up at a basketball hoop on the playground. Guess what….it got stuck. Now they have a problem. They want the ball but can’t reach it. It is to big to go through the hoop. As a parent and a teacher, you may want to walk over and get it for them. But is it really necessary? As long as they are safe this could be a great learning experience. I’ll let you in with a hint. They figure it out all by themselves. They tried throwing balls at it to bounce it back out. Eventually with suggestions from other classmates they used a hockey stick to push it out from underneath. The heroic cries of success were heard everywhere. Many problem-solving skills, teamwork ideas and patience were learned in that moment.
What are your thoughts when you walk into a classroom and see two children arguing and see the teacher not intervening immediately? I’m sure that the first things to mind is why won’t they help. I can guarantee you the teacher is not ignoring the situation. They are watching intently, evaluating the situation. They are making sure they are safe and waiting to see if they are needed or not. In this scenario the children can learn so much. They learn about what words are best, what tone of voice is best. How to listen and how to be heard. They can learn about compromise and negotiation. A hint from adult supervision about using nice words, a quieter tone and suggestion about taking turns or being fair can help guide them through.
A child was playing with cars and building racetracks. Making different ramps to help the car go faster and farther. One of the cars rolled under the stacked cots. The child initially asked for help. “Can you get it for me?” The first thought is to retrieve the car for them. But happens if you first give the child a chance to figure it out on their own. In this instance the child put several of the tracks together, slide them under the cots and swatted the car out. This child just learned an awesome lesson about thinking for themselves, gained self-confidence and a realization that they can do difficult things.
You will be amazed at how innovated your children can be when it comes to solving problems. They are creative with ways to manipulate tools in their environment. They are quite ingenious in connecting problems and solutions. They are very capable to do it in a kind and safe manner. Being present to help them is important. Giving them a safe and emotionally secure time and place to learn these skills is very important so that they can handle these issues when they are all grown up and on their own. Children are smart. They are capable. They just need the freedom to do. Here’s a NAEYC reference for something we’re doing in our classrooms.
NAEYC Standards – 1C.1 – Teachers give children a chance to resolve their own conflicts without immediate teacher intervention.
1C.5 – When children are in conflict. Teachers help them think of alternative solutions.
Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher