Learning through conflict resolution

Teaching young children conflict resolution skills is crucial for positive parenting and instilling strong moral values, says a Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) don.

Exposure to conflict management empowers children to develop empathy, love, effective communication and problem-solving skills that will impact the formation of their personalities, Faculty of Education Studies senior lecturer Dr Siti Noormi Alias from the varsity’s Department of Professional Development and Continuing Education said.

Conflict resolution skills, she said, are particularly crucial today because children grow up around technology and face both in-person and online conflicts.“Children need to be exposed to them as early as possible.

“By using appropriate positive reinforcement, parents can empower their children to identify signs of conflict and the best methods to handle it.

“In such situations, the ability to control the situation by applying simple conflict management methods can help children develop social skills and maintain emotional well-being,” she said.

Through this process, she said, they will also learn about the existence of differences and diversity, the tendency for biases in choices, and the need to reach a consensus.“In their limited spectrum due to their very young age, the introduction of such skills can prevent them from issues like bullying or being ostracised by their peers.

“Consequently, children will feel more confident in expressing their needs while also considering the needs of others. Simply put, they will become more considerate,” she said, adding that conflict management skills can be taught to children as young as three years old as they are prone to being exposed to conflicts with parents, siblings and playmates.

Recommending a simple process to help children learn problem-solving skills, Siti Noormi called on parents to adopt four steps in their daily interactions with children, namely:

> Your turn

If a conflict occurs between two parties, give the other party the opportunity to express their views, feelings and expectations. This trains individuals to be active listeners.

> My turn

Describe the constraints you face, your views and feelings. Clear words and polite language will facilitate better understanding between both parties.

> Planning together

Once both parties understand each other’s constraints and problems, have a discussion to find a solution. Suggest specific criteria to indicate problem resolution and set a time frame for reviewing the implementation.

> Follow-up action

This is important for both parties to assess whether the conflict has been resolved based on the criteria set.

Parents themselves, Siti Noormi stressed, must demonstrate good conflict management so that they become positive role models for their children, and they need to create an environment that encourages open communication so that children can express their feelings and views.

“Children learn through observation. They need to be introduced to non-violent, open communication.

“They need to understand that the choice of words, facial expressions and gestures can impact others,” she said, adding that using an appropriate tone of voice according to the situation, controlling emotions, and normalising discussions among family members to resolve issues are crucial in conflict management.

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education , moral education , UPM


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