The Preschool age is an important time, when children learn many of the social skills that will carry them throughout their life. These skills must be taught, learned and practiced over and over and over again. Here are 6 steps for you while guiding your child through a social conflict. The steps also teach your child to problem solve and think independently.
1) When you see a problem occur between a peer and your child, draw your child’s attention to it by saying something like, “I see that you and Johnny both want the boat and are fighting over who is going to play with it.”)
2) If your preschooler is very upset, encourage him to calm down before continuing. Tell your child to take a few breaths to calm down. You know your child, so use what works best for him.
3) Have your child tell their peer in their own words what they think the problem is, or why they are upset. Even though you may see what the problem is, allow your child to use their words to express himself (you already know how to do this) give your child the opportunity to learn. You should repeat what your child said to enforce that he is being heard. (Ex: “Oh, you both want to use the red truck, but there is only one”)
4) Encourage the children to come up with a solution (Ex: “What do you both think we can do about this?”) Any idea they come up with should be acknowledged and welcomed. The idea is to get them thinking. Help them generate a reasonable solution.
5) Once the children have agreed on a solution, walk away and let them try to implement the solution on their own.
6) Check back on the children to make sure they are able to implement the solution. Reinforce how great it is that they found a solution. (Ex: “I am so glad the two of you decided to get an extra truck out of the toy box and play together.”)
Usually, the hardest step is number 2, calming your child down when he feels he has been wronged or hurt. These tips, when used consistently, will get easier for your child to do on his own. Ultimately you will be giving your preschooler the ability to think and solve problems independently, which is what growing up is all about.